Chinese students wage war on Cantonese in Hong Kong City University

Apple Daily reported on Oct 12th that Chinese students of Hong Kong City University’s Chinese literature department signed up a Cantonese class and demanded the professor to use Mandarin. In the end, not only did the professor give into the demand, he also gives extra tutouring sessions to Chinese students. The act enraged Hong Kong students, leading to verbal wars against Chinese students.

A Hong Kong student told Apple Daily that Chinese students complained in the first lecture, “Professor, we don’t understand Cantonese. Please use Mandarin.” Hong Kong students were in an uproar and rebuked, “it’s clearly stated the course is instructed in Cantonese” and “You guys’ve disrupted the order.” Assistant professor of the department of Chinese, translation and linguistic, Chan Hok-yin, assured at that time that he would continue to use Cantonese. After class, he discussed the instruction language with students by email.

In the second lecture, Chan suddenly switched to instruct in both Cantonese and Mandarin..He translated every Cantonese sentence he said into Mandarin. Also, he gives an extra one-hour Mandarin tutourial session to Chinese students weekly. Hong Kong students were so furious that they raised theirs hands in the class and complained, “I can’t understand Mandarin.” Chinese students then replied with disparaging tone, “Can’t Hong Kong students listen to some Mandarin, can you?” Hong Kong and Chinese students quarrel between each other. Inside the lecture hall with about a hundred students, quarrels broke out everywhere. The chaos lasted for two more lectures. Chan insisted on instructing in both languages.

At the end of the forth lecture, acting head of the department, Chan Hon-suen, mediated between Hong Kong and Chinese students right inside the lecture hall. Chinese students seized the opportunity and complained, “We’ve spent so much money on the City University. But you give us such an arrangement!” Hong Kong students were extremely furious and rebuked, “Would you demand professors to instruct in Mandarin in Yale University?” and “You’d expect to hear Cantonese in Hong Kong!” Chan Hon-suen admitted that the arrangement is problematic and promised to review it in future.

Our reporter attended the lecture last week and noticed that every three or four Cantonese sentences Chan said he would then translate them into Mandarin. He even made Cantonese jokes, making Hong Kong students laugh. Then he translated the same jokes into Mandarin. Ever since the mediation, the lecture hall has become calm. However, some Hong Kong students worried that bilingual education would slow down the progress. According to the schedule, the class is one lecture behind.

—-Netizens’ comments later—-

Hong Kong netizens bought an advertisement protesting the Mainlandisation of Hong Kong universities – 70% of postgraduate students in Hong Kong public universities are from China – which was published in Apple Daily on June 20th in 2013. For English version of the advertisement, please click here.

6 thoughts on “Chinese students wage war on Cantonese in Hong Kong City University

  1. What’s with Mandarin speakers that they have this thing on wiping out Cantonese language?! One actually told me Mandarin is the real Chinese language and that Cantonese is not and should not be used in schools, another told me that Cantonese is not a language, just a dialect and that it is a pity I can’t speak nor understand Mandarin! To top it off there had been a photo capturing a part of a mainland school’s guideline saying Yue languages are uncivilised, that no one can understanding and teachers are to ‘encourage’ students not to speak it (in this case it’s Cantonese) whilst at school. In fact, there are some schools now in HK that ban students speaking Cantonese whilst at school.
    And it’s not just Cantonese, the Mandarin speakers, mostly northerners, have a thing against all southern languages too, with Shanghaiese dwindling to almost extinction where there are less and less new generations of Shanghaiese able to speak their own language, although there is a growing number of Shanghaiese demanding their language be used and taught in school.
    Back to Cantonese, there have been a growing phenomenon in Guangzhou, home of Cantonese, where children born of Cantonese parents cannot communicate using Cantonese and the family have to resort to using Mandarin, because the schools in mainland china have ban the use of Cantonese, from kindergartens all the way to universities.
    In the Guangzhou Asian Games, there was once a proposal to have Cantonese banned from all areas of public life on the reason that chinese everywhere only know mandarin and not Cantonese, that neither foreigners would know Cantonese but would know some mandarin. There was an uproar of course by the Cantonese people in Guangzhou, and the proposal was scrapped, but there have been other places that took up the proposal, such as offices where Cantonese are discouraged with penalities.
    So this is just another attack on Cantonese amongst a larger context of discrimination towards the Cantonese language by mainland chinese who refuse to accommodate southern languages.
    Can I just add that Cantonese are closer to the ancient Chinese language than mandarin is! Archaeo-linguistic studies have shown many Cantonese pronunciation are closer to the original pronunciations, and that Mandarin are more closely related to the language of northern invaders such as the Huns, Mongols, Manchus and the Turks, that Mandarin is more a mixture (can I say bastardisation) of the old Chinese language and these northern languages.

  2. We must never allow our prestigious education institutions to be tarnished by conducting lectures, especially on literature, in the Locust Language. If they want to be taught in Mandarin they can stay in the communist motherland and eat at the cafeterias that cook food in fake cooking oil and use fake ingredients in the preparation. Hong Kong is for Hong Kongers. We speak Cantonese and English.

    By the way, if you go to Chinatown in UK or Australia/NZ/Canada you will find most of the shops and restaurants are owned by Cantonese speaking people and want to recruit staff who have Cantonese ability.

  3. Actually, Alain, most of the shops are owned by Mandarin speaking people in New Zealand. My personal preference, even though I was born in Hong Kong, is Mandarin but I think there is a benefit to learning as many languages as possible. I don’t like Cantonese’s sound but I use it to communicate. I just happen to like listening to Mandarin a bit more. If a course says it’s instructed in Cantonese then it should be in Cantonese. It’s what students paid for. I would be very annoyed if I signed up to a course in English only to find the lectures being in another language.

  4. Pingback: Protestos em Hong Kong: luta por democracia ou chauvinismo regional? | ISAPE blog

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