[lg policy] Why Hong Kong needs a ‘one country, two languages’ policy on Cantonese and Mandarin

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sun Oct 14 15:26:53 EDT 2018


 Why Hong Kong needs a ‘one country, two languages’ policy on Cantonese and
Mandarin
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2018, 10:08pm

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Related topics
Education <https://www.scmp.com/topics/education> Carrie Lam
<https://www.scmp.com/topics/carrie-lam> Cantonese
<https://www.scmp.com/topics/cantonese> Hong Kong
<https://www.scmp.com/topics/hong-kong> Hong Kong localism and independence
<https://www.scmp.com/topics/hong-kong-localism-and-independence>
More on this story
[image: Young performers from Cha Duk Chang Children’s Cantonese Opera
Association rehearse for their annual show, in Chai Wan on September 30.
Speaking Cantonese is seen as an essential feature of the Hong Kong
identity, and a focus on Mandarin can be perceived as “mainlandisation”.
Photo: Martin Chan]
<https://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2167695/hong-kong-defined-cantonese-must-see-big-picture-mandarin-and-rising>
* Letters <https://www.scmp.com/comment/letters> * Hong Kong is uniquely
Cantonese, but must see why it needs Mandarin
<https://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2167695/hong-kong-defined-cantonese-must-see-big-picture-mandarin-and-rising>
11 Oct 2018
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I am writing in response to Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung’s
controversial remarks about a wider use of Mandarin in daily life and the
advantages of learning Chinese in Mandarin (“Cantonese teaching debate puts
education chief under fire
<https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/2167382/hong-kong-education-chief-forced-clarify-controversial>”,
October 7).
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Over the years, there have been extensive discussions about whether
Cantonese should be considered a language at all. While some argue that
Cantonese makes the cut because it is not mutually intelligible with
Mandarin, others disagree – mainly on political grounds. Regardless of the
categorisation, education torch-bearers should seriously ponder what
constitutes the essence of education.

Firstly, the proposal of using Mandarin to learn Chinese in schools is a
far cry from the direction of the post-handover “medium of instruction
<https://www.edb.gov.hk/en/edu-system/primary-secondary/applicable-to-secondary/moi/support-and-resources-for-moi-policy/index-1.html>”
policy. The policy affirms that mother-tongue teaching can lift language
barriers and increase students’ understanding of what is taught. Yeung’s
proposal regresses to the colonial policy premised on the importance of a
language.

Learning Mandarin could be just the job
<https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2130811/learning-mandarin-could-be-just-job>

If students’ Mandarin competence is not high enough, they will find it
difficult to engage with the subject matter in Chinese lessons. It is true
that Mandarin may not pose a problem for those who have a high command of
the language, but that raises the question of whether we should implement
what Yeung proposes to improve Mandarin ability, because these students are
quite fluent in Mandarin already.

Secondly, Mandarin should be effectively acquired through an independent
curriculum. Integrating it into the Chinese language subject will blur the
focus of Mandarin learning since it would be paradoxical to switch between
first-language pedagogy and second-language pedagogy if one subject serves
two masters.

It’s best to mind your language, minister
<https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/hong-kong/article/2167712/its-best-mind-your-language-minister>

Thirdly, it is distressing that Hong Kong is losing its glamour as an
international metropolis juxtaposing the East and the West. Cantonese
should be preserved to ensure the sustainability of our cultural identity.
Again, as Asia’s world city, we should extend our students’ learning beyond
local perspectives and prepare them to be well-versed in Mandarin and
English so as to unlock a world of opportunities for them.

It is my hope that “one country, two language systems” can be fully
implemented in Hong Kong.
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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