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How to Know Hong Kong and Macau

Roberto Ignacio Diaz, Dominic Cheung, Ana Paulina Lee, Authors

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Multilingualism in Hong Kong and Macau (After 1997)


Hong Kong and Macau, the Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China,are the representative cities of multilingualism in the South China Sea area. Behind the multiple languages spoken in that region, there lies the history of cultural collision and assimilation of East and West. English and Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin, each brings cultural diversity and challenge to Hong Kong and Macau. Especially after 1997, the transfer of sovereignty to China, multilingualism develops into a new stage and plays a huge role in Hong Kong and Macau’s post-colonial regional self-construction.

       However, the language situation in Hong Kong and Macau is rather complicated. It is more than just English vs. Chinese or Portuguese vs. Chinese. For example, within the division of Chinese, there is difference, tension and inter-influence between Cantonese and Mandarin and such. What's more, although both are SARs with European colonial history, Hong Kong and Macau are in distinct language condition. 

       In addition, the secondary education in Hong Kong and Macau contributes to the multilingualism in these cities by allowing multiple instruction languages to coexist in the educational system and cultivating multilingual abilities in the students. Specifically, the choice of medium of instruction under the influence of mainland politics and economy demonstrates the complexity of language situation in post-colonial Hong Kong and Macau.

       This essay is only a brieflook into the language situation in the two cities and an attempt to see this through the perspective of secondary education. But I hope it will trigger interests among the readers and together we continue to explore the linguistic and cultural treasure.

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