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.
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