Laowai speakers hot on reality TV show

Shandong province in East China is known around the world for being a cultural center. So, it is a small wonder that its dialects have become the basis of a popular reality TV show.

Dialects Clash, aired on Qilu channel of Shandong Network Radio-Television Station since last year, is different for it invites foreigners to undertake language challenges.

The second season began on Feb 19.

The show has six local TV hosts testing the linguistic skills of 12 participants in six teams, among which six foreigners respectively took part in two episodes.

Games and puzzles about local traditions and folklore are designed as part of the tests. The winning team will be awarded 100,000 yuan ($16,000) in prizes when the show ends in the middle of this year.

The province has three major dialects widely spoken by its population of 90 million.

While most competitors are native Chinese speakers, two recent episodes with foreign aspirants made high audience ratings. One had students from Russia, Laos and Tanzania, and another featured twins, Luchiya Den and Kamila Den, born to a Chinese father and an Armenian mother. The twins have beaten 10 natives speakers so far.

Kamila Den said the program helped her learn more about the local culture.

"Usually foreigners can impress Chinese audiences by showing off their Mandarin fluency on TV but this is a bit more surprising as it is about knowing local dialects," program director Wu Qian recently told reporters in the provincial capital Jinan.

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