Face Off: Should Chinese lessons be held in Mandarin instead of Cantonese?

Face Off: Should Chinese lessons be held in Mandarin instead of Cantonese?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

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There have been strong protests against government policy of pushing Mandarin over local languages in the past, both in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Photo: AFP

Nemo Yu, 14, Carmel Secondary School
I definitely think so. Mandarin is the official language of about 20 per cent of the entire human race. Therefore, I think it is important for Hong Kong students to be able speak Mandarin fluently.

I believe being fluent in Mandarin would be an advantage when they look for jobs later in life. And the best way for people to become fluent in the language is to learn it at school. Since students nowadays have busy schedules packed with all sort of extra curricular activities and tutorial lessons, they probably won’t have time to take up extra Mandarin classes outside school, which is why it’s necessary for Chinese to be taught in Mandarin.

China has been rapidly developing in terms of business and economy, and it’s likely that the future generations of Hongkongers will be interacting more with the mainland in the future, and they need to be able to communicate with them.

Good communication is key to fruitful exchanges of ideas. As the ties between Hong Kong and the mainland grow closer, it is necessary for the next generation to learn how to speak effectively with people from the mainland so that we can work harmoniously together.

Many Hong Kong students already know Cantonese and speak it at home, so it doesn’t need to be used in schools as much as Mandarin. Plus, Cantonese is not as commonly used around the world, so it isn’t as useful to learn as Mandarin.

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Cyrus Fung, 16, HKUGA College
The Chinese language has many different dialects. Mandarin may be the most widely used, but I do not think it should be the main dialect used taught in Hong Kong schools.

In a way, teaching Mandarin and calling it Chinese is a form of cultural vandalism, as Cantonese is the main dialect here. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is a big part of our culture and history, and I think the language needs to be passed on to future generations of Hongkongers.

If future generations of Hong Kong children don’t know how to speak Cantonese, we would lose a big part of our culture.

Supporters of Mandarin say studying the language should improve students’ Chinese ability in terms of writing. However, experts have said that teaching Chinese in Mandarin causes Hong Kong students to struggle with higher level Chinese reading skills.

In conclusion, choosing to use Mandarin over Cantonese to teach Chinese in Hong Kong is a move that potentially strips away Hongkongers’ cultural identity, and is not as advantageous to students as some schools might believe.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should Chinese be taught in Mandarin instead of Cantonese in schools?

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