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Cantonese - the official language of Hong Kong

Background and status

b2ap3_thumbnail_BLOG_52.jpgCantonese is spoken by approximately 62 million speakers worldwide and is the official language in Hong Kong (along with English) and in Macau (along with Portuguese). Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin Chinese, the two languages are not mutually intelligible because of pronunciation, grammatical, and also lexical differences. Since the early 1900s, China has promoted Mandarin for use in education, the media and official communication. The proclamation of Mandarin as the official national language however was not fully accepted by the Cantonese authority in the early 20th century who argued for the "regional uniqueness" of its local dialect, and the use of Cantonese persisted in a few state television and radio broadcasts to this day.

Usage and growth

Cantonese is also the main language of business, the media and government in both Hong Kong and Macau and is viewed as part of the cultural identity. Cultural products like pop songs, movies, magazines, newspapers and literature are highly popular among not only the Cantonese-speaking but also the non-Cantonese-speaking populations in Greater China, which helps expand the status of Cantonese as a respected regional variety of the Chinese language. Due to the linguistic history of Hong Kong and Macau, and the use of Cantonese in many overseas Chinese communities, international usage of Cantonese has spread far out of proportion to its relatively small number of speakers in China, even though the majority of Cantonese speakers still live in mainland China.

The Language Inc. Team

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