Hong Kong means Cantonese, and we can’t follow Guangzhou in the march of Mandarin
I am writing in response to the education secretary’s controversial comments about Chinese language teaching in Hong Kong (“Cantonese teaching debate puts education chief under fire”, October 9). As a Hongkonger, I was angered by what Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said. His words gave the impression that he did not respect his mother tongue, Cantonese. All he could see was the advantage of teaching Chinese in Mandarin. But our language is among the features that make our city unique. That’s why we continue to be fascinated by Cantonese.
Cantonese dates back to ancient Chinese times, it bears a strong resemblance to the official language of the Tang dynasty, renowned classical poets used the language and some metaphors are best savoured in Cantonese.
Cantonese is an integral part of the history of China – how can we throw it all away just because of the modern advantages of learning Mandarin? We should respect Cantonese and protect its value.
If those in positions of power such as Mr Yeung only focus on the advantages that Mandarin can offer Hongkongers, they will be guilty of ignoring our cultural heritage. In time, Hong Kong children may forget how to speak or turn a phrase in Cantonese.
I cannot remain calm about this situation with Cantonese being pushed to the background, as neighbouring Guangzhou – Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Area peer – seems to be setting a precedent. According to some surveys, in Guangzhou, young people’s interest and proficiency in Cantonese is waning and children prefer to converse with parents and older family members in Mandarin. This is a distressing situation that may well become Hong Kong’s future.
As Hongkongers, we need to protect our cultural and linguistic heritage so that it is not destroyed in time.
Vivian Choi, Kwai Chung