News & Events

B.C.’s Cantonese speakers fight to preserve language amid uncertainty in Hong Kong

By Vancouver Sun |

You wouldn’t know that Cantonese is under threat, judging from the food court of the Parker Place shopping mall in Richmond, the most ethnically Chinese city in the world outside Asia.

All around, tables of diners young and old meet to “chui sui” — literally, to “blow water,” or gossip — in the language that originated in southern China and Hong Kong.

Charles Chan, who immigrated to B.C. from Hong Kong 40 years ago, said he raised his children to speak Cantonese at home.

“You better let your children learn Cantonese to help them be more competitive in the job market,” said Chan as he waited for his wife to buy dumplings. He said he was confident about the language’s future.

But some Metro Vancouver Cantonese speakers say its fate is uncertain in its homeland, and overseas communities play a vital role in its preservation.

The concerns come after the shutdown of an online group promoting Cantonese in late August, after authorities in Hong Kong said content on the website violated the city’s national security laws.

Mandarin — China’s official spoken language — is increasingly taught and promoted in Hong Kong, even though education officials there have denied plans to switch Chinese instruction away from Cantonese. But Cantonese advocacy has been associated with a localist movement that is facing suppression in Hong Kong.

Read more