Language and education experts are divided over the impact cutting parts of the HKDSE Chinese Language exam would have on everyday use of Cantonese.
The Chinese public exam became the focus of an online debate last week after local media outlet HK01 asked a prominent Chinese tutor and Cantonese linguist for their views on the education task force’s suggestion to scrap either the speaking or listening parts of the exam.
One post published on local online forum LIHKG today suggested that “Cantonese would no longer be spoken and heard [in Hong Kong]” if the task force’s recommendation was implemented.
Yet others involved in the online debate didn’t think scrapping the papers would pose any threat to the preservation of Cantonese, the mother tongue of most Hongkongers.
“These exams didn’t exist in the past, but that didn’t stop us from speaking the language. No one has ever questioned its status as our mother tongue either,” Tang Siu-wa, a Chinese poet and columnist, wrote on Facebook last Friday. She added that as students can choose to take these exams in Mandarin, keeping them won’t necessarily encourage the use of Cantonese.
“Simplifying the Chinese curriculum would actually give teachers and students more breathing room,” said Tang, adding that students might be more likely to take an interest in Cantonese if it were no longer a source of stress for them.
Yip Yat-chee, a writer and Liberal Studies teacher, also shared her views in a Facebook post. She suggested that if Cantonese fell out of use, it would not be due to any changes to the exam syllabus, but because many primary schools have started using Mandarin as the language of instruction in Chinese lessons, while some secondary schools force students to speak Mandarin instead of Cantonese.