Should we preserve Cantonese, or protect children from 'vulgar relic'?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 August, 2010, 12:00am

Cantonese is becoming less popular in Guangdong even though it is historically the dialect spoken in this part of China. Many people are now switching to Putonghua because they see it as a more international language.

While residents in Hong Kong and Macau continue to speak Cantonese, it does look as though it is in danger of dying out. There has been criticism of the decline in students' English standards in Hong Kong, especially as they use abbreviations with text messages. But we are also seeing the Chinese language threatened as young people use slang when talking to their peers.

International schools and other schools which use English as the medium of instruction in the city are considered to be the best educational institutions. There is a deep-rooted perception that students at English-medium schools have a better chance of getting into a good university than pupils educated through the Chinese medium.

Some scholars are saying that this is a misconception. Research has shown that at secondary schools which have switched their medium of instruction from English to Chinese, teachers have found that most students learn better, are more confident and can form ideas in a more sophisticated way.

It is time we stopped seeing the mother tongue as inferior. The mindset that it is more desirable to be a Hongkonger who cannot speak Cantonese properly is totally unacceptable.

Language lies at the root of a culture. The unique Cantonese culture, which cannot be found elsewhere, has to be conserved.

Hong Kong is a complex blend of East and West and comprises people from all areas of China, reflecting the country's various customs.

Being able to speak and write Chinese and English will help people get jobs. That's why we should strike the right balance.

It is important for us to defend the Cantonese dialect and pass it down to future generations.

Chan Pui-shan, Kwai Chung

I disagree with your editorial ('Time to talk sense on the use of Cantonese', July 29).

You argue that Cantonese is in need of protection and that 'language lies at the root of a culture'.

However, Cantonese is a dialect, not a language, and Hong Kong and Guangdong province are not countries that have their own independent cultures.

Like all Chinese dialects, Cantonese is an appropriate medium of folk culture only.

However, in the way that it is used in Hong Kong, it is merely a course, vulgar relic of China's feudal past.

It is fine to use a dialect like Cantonese in the home or wet market, but it is completely inappropriate in a modern city to use it for education and formal communication in the way that Hong Kong people stubbornly do.

Hongkongers should be ashamed. Thirteen years after returning to the motherland, the great majority of this city's residents are unable to speak Putonghua well and our children continue to learn a corrupt form of Chinese in schools.

If they have a poor foundation in Chinese, how can our students learn another language like English well?

If the government does not want to keep the masses half literate and unable to think critically, then it should ban the use of Cantonese in education and probably in the media and government, as well.

Schools should just teach in Putonghua and English.

In the realm of education, Cantonese should be treated as a mispronounced, grammatically incorrect form of Chinese rather than a desirable medium of instruction. If local teachers, especially Chinese teachers, are not qualified to teach in Putonghua, then they should be replaced by non-locals.

Cantonese does not need to be protected. Instead, our youngsters need to be protected from inappropriate use of Cantonese.

Clark Li, Tai Po