Languages slowly dying out is always something I feel a little sad about, but as mentioned in previous posts, this seems to be the direction the world is taking.
Recently, people have taken to the streets in Guangzhou, a city in southern China, in protest of the local Cantonese dialect being ever more replaced by Mandarin. The specific issue that sparked the protest – numbering around 10,000 people, according to reports – was the majority of the TV stations switching to broadcasting in Mandarin.
For decades, pressure from Beijing to adopt Mandarin as the national language of China has seen many local Cantonese dialects usurped by the government’s preferred tongue. Spokespeople from the Chinese Communist Party claim that they simply wish to “strike a balance” and “respect dialects” rather than simply wipe out the widespread use of Cantonese, but with several newspapers having reports of people actually being fired from their jobs for speaking Cantonese rather than Mandarin, it is difficult to gauge the extent of the government’s “encouragement”.
This policy is most noticeably resisted in the city of Hong Kong, where Cantonese still reigns as the preferred language not only of the locals but also in the government and education sectors. Nearby provinces such as Guangdong have also resisted the migration to Mandarin.
Fear not, though – a Cantonese course will still stand you in good stead for travelling around China – so long as you stick mainly to the southern provinces. If you’d rather go to Shanghai or Beijing, Mandarin is probably a better bet!