I call myself a 1.5 generation Hong Kong Chinese New Zealander. Language abilities is one of the advantage I have living here in New Zealand.
I speak fluent Cantonese, Mandarin and English; read and write traditional and simplified Chinese, as well, as of course, English.
Cantonese is a language that originated in Canton/Guangzhou in southern Chinese, and often regarded as the prestige dialect of Yue Chinese.
Cantonese is spoken by the majority population of Hong Kong and Macau, and by overseas Chinese communities such as New Zealand. It is therefore the most widely spoken Chinese dialect in the world.
Cantonese have been an issue raised within the Chinese community lately. The Guangzhou People’s Government have decided to ban the use of Cantonese on public broadcast such as radio and TV. All signs, except for heritage signs, can only be written simplified Chinese.
This caused an outraged amongst Cantonese speakers, more so with those in Hong Kong.
Chinese government’s banning a language to be used in the public is effectively a way to remove the cultural and historical practices of Cantonese, the language and the historical context. Cantonese language retained many of the ancient languages and belief.
It has been seen by the public that the Chinese government wants to unify the greater China and banning the minoriy practices to avoid separation of the country. The fear that this could increase separations and decrease the integration into the greater system.
In New Zealand, there is much discussion about keeping ones’ language, such as the public promotion of Maori Language Week, Somoan Language Week, the promotion of kohanga Reo in the Auckland Plan, etc. There is little done to preserved the traditional Asian languages; perhaps because most people share the believes that Asians should “integrade” into New Zealand and therefore there are little needs for them to preserve their language.
Cantonese is also dying in New Zealand. There is a Chinese Heritage Poll Tax Trust, which one of the aim is to “learning and use of the Cantonese language”. The Auckland Chinese Community Centre received funding from the Trust to run Cantonese classes, and unfortuantely not widely promoted and supported by the community.
The outrageous thing is when World TV’s own Cantonese radio station, 99.4fm, decided to play a number of Mandarin programmes, because “the advertisers say their customers are mostly Mandarin speaking.” Why decide to run a Cantonese radio station that plays Mandarin programme?
In 2012, I hope to find a way to promote the use and cultural heritage of Cantonese. Cantonese is my identiy, and it is my mother tongue. It is important to protect it.