Policeman fluent in nearly all Chinese dialects helps more than 50 previously missing people reunite with families by analysing accents
- A Chinese policeman’s impressive language skills have allowed him to identify where a person is from just by listening to a few sentences
- Wang Baoku uses his talent for language, which he gained during military service, to track down missing people in China, some gone for decades
A Chinese policeman familiar with China’s many regional dialects has helped more than 50 missing people reunite with their families in the past 11 years by analysing their accents, according to a local media report.
His impressive language skills, which few in the country possess given its linguistic diversity, have allowed 51-year-old police officer Wang Baoku from Wuhan in central China to identify where a person is from by listening to a few sentences or sometimes just a few words, the Changjiang Daily reported.
Wang has used his rare talent for language identification, which he gained during his military service, to track down people reported as missing for years or even decades.
In a case last year, a homeless old man was critically ill in hospital, but couldn’t provide any information about his family. “He said in a weak voice that he was surnamed Xiong, with a falling tone. And he pronounced the last character of his given name as ‘Yuan’, with the retroflex often heard in a Chengdu accent,” Wang said.
He then narrowed down the scale of his search to Chengdu and finally found the man’s daughter who had been looking for him for 22 years.
In the past year, he helped reunite a 59-year-old man with his sister who had been missing for 34 years, a woman with her brother who disappeared 37 years ago, and a 77-year-man and his grandson who ran away from home seven years ago.
Wang said he became an expert in dialects during his 22 years of military service when he trained soldiers from different parts of China.
With clues from accents and well-developed police data, Wang said it’s not very hard to find information about unidentified people these days.
“I am confident that I can do it as long as I spend enough time and effort,” said Wang.
There are 129 local languages and dialects within China across 56 ethnic groups, according to The Languages of China, a 2007 book compiled by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
A total of one million people were estimated to have gone missing in China in 2020, according to the White Paper of China’s Missing Population 2020, a government-backed report.