|War of the words|
|Written by Nick Westra|
|Tuesday, 05 June 2007|
Page 1 of 2
The conflict between Cantonese and Mandarin is most prominent in Hong Kong where a unique two-thousand year old linguistic tradition clashes with the need to integrate with the Mainland.
Understanding the conflict
Since Hong Kong's "handover" to Mainland China, there have been increasing calls for the city to attach itself to Mandarin.
Hong Kong has been a Cantonese speaking city since its origins in the mid-nineteenth century and because of this heritage - entertainment, news, politics are all conducted in Cantonese - many local residents consider Mandarin to be a foreign tongue.One taxi driver in Kennedy Town told this reporter, "Cantonese has been around for 2,000 years and it will be around for another 2,000 years!"
Hong Kong's first Chief Executive, Tung Chee Hwa, called upon Hong Kong people to learn Mandarin in his 2001 policy address and speak it regularly. The next CE, Donald Tsang, has reaffirmed those calls.
With such deep ties to Cantonese, however, most Hong Kong people have moved slowly in this endeavor.
Why this matters
The appropriate place of Mandarin in the city has become the subject of fierce debate among Hong Kongers as the city begins to integrate with the Mainland after "the handover."
Some, like Karen, 20, a native Cantonese speaker, feel that Mandarin should be required learning and many have already taken steps to improve their command of the language. "[Mandarin] is important for my future," she said.
Others, however, feel that Cantonese is the natural langauge of Hong Kong and that there is no need to speak Mandarin on a daily basis. Bjorn, 33, a foreign resident, said that he has few chances to speak Mandarin in Hong Kong because it is "a Cantonese city."
Cantonese is still the de facto language of the city at present and Mandarin is more of a dialect. The Hong Kong government has already taken steps to increase the influence of Mandarin in the city, however, as it mandated that the language be given added emphasis in both primary and secondary schools.
And with more and more Hong Kongers turning to the Mainland for work and investment and Mandarin tutoring becoming increasing popular in Hong Kong, it seems that the pieces are in place for a showdown between Cantonese and Mandarin in the future.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 June 2007 )|
|Customs and Cultures|
|Buildings & Monuments|
|Politics & Government|
|Hong Kong's Identity|
|Arts & Culture|