Why Mandarin and English should remain Hong Kong’s second languages and not displace Cantonese
I am writing to express my disagreement with the policy of using Mandarin to teach Chinese (“Hong Kong education chief forced to clarify controversial comments about teaching Chinese language in Cantonese”, October 7). Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said Hong Kong should consider using Mandarin to teach the Chinese language, instead of Cantonese. He noted that the future development of Chinese language learning across the globe would rely mainly on Mandarin.
At first glance, this seems plausible. As a result of globalisation and China’s thriving economy, there will be more people using Mandarin for commercial reasons.
However, a closer look at the issue reveals that belittling Cantonese can be counterproductive. Admittedly, using Mandarin in teaching may imply some commercial opportunities for teenagers. Yet, Cantonese is our mother tongue and we use it to communicate in our daily lives. Thus, its utility transcends mere employment.
In my view, second languages such as Mandarin and English should be for specific purposes. They cannot and should not displace Hongkonger’s native tongue – Cantonese. Otherwise, we might lose an in-depth understanding of our own traditions. For instance, if we adopt Mandarin in teaching Chinese, the rhymes of traditional poems could be lost.
Mr Yeung should think twice before he suggests radical measures.
Soong Hong, Kwai Chung
Watch: Cantonese phrases that are uniquely Hong Kong
Cantonese is our mother tongue, but trilingualism has its benefits
I am writing in response to Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-Hung’s comments on using Mandarin to teach the Chinese language in Hong Kong. Not long ago, there was an intense argument about whether Cantonese or Mandarin is our mother tongue, further intensifying the fraught relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China. Another burning question is whether Chinese should be taught in Cantonese or Mandarin in secondary school.
In my opinion, most subjects should be taught in English, like they are at my English medium-of-instruction secondary school. This can increase students’ opportunities to learn and use English, improving our fluency and comprehension skills.
However, the Chinese subjects – Chinese history, Chinese language and the Chinese literature elective – should be taught in Cantonese.
First, Cantonese is an intrinsic part of Hong Kong culture. So, of course, we should learn Chinese in our mother tongue. Second, our exposure to Cantonese starts in early childhood. We would understand Chinese subjects more easily using Cantonese than Mandarin and this would improve our performance in those subjects. Finally, Cantonese has a longer history than Mandarin. Classical Chinese texts were based on a speaking system that is closer to Cantonese than Mandarin.
However, we can’t ignore the importance of Mandarin as it is widely spoken on the mainland. Hongkongers have the advantage of “biliteracy and trilingualism”. So why not have a few Chinese lessons dedicated specifically to learning Mandarin or weekly Mandarin exercises? That way, we will become proficient in all three languages, increasing our ability to thrive in the future.
Wylok Wong, Tseung Kwan O