“Chinese”

I can’t help but feel that the term “Chinese” used in universities and seemingly everywhere is very centered on what the People’s Republic of China’s government has defined as “Chinese,” even as it is supposed to cover the whole political region of China in which over 1 billion people live.

If you just think about it, even if a region that is inhabited by so many people is just one political state, there is bound to be more than just one language within the region – we just conveniently simplify these languages in deeming the language of China solely “Chinese.” So why aren’t these languages called languages, but dialects? Perhaps if one attempted to draw parallels in linguistic differences among Chinese “dialects” and Western European “languages,” he might find that they were equal in distinction. But in today’s context, that doesn’t seem to mean anything: why? Because China is one political state, while western Europe is made up of numerous? I can’t help but feel a bit wronged. Maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to push for Cantonese to be recognized as a distinct language, but I still feel that this distinction must be addressed for anyone who might learn “Chinese,” which most likely refers to Mandarin and simplified Chinese, the language that supposedly over 1 billion people speak as their “native” language. I feel that too many think that the differences between Mandarin and Cantonese are as simple as “Hello” and “Howdy” and one area using the term “hella” or “hecka” in conversation, with another area using the term “wicked.”

Maybe I’m just terribly afraid of the possibility that Cantonese will fade away and die with Hong Kong becoming just another city in the People’s Republic of China. And although I know that no matter how much I might wish for it, Cantonese will likely never come to be considered an actual language, I want people to know about Cantonese. How ~70 million people speak it and how interesting it is that Cantonese would flourish in Hong Kong, even as its use was never promoted by any government. How unique the situation of Cantonese is and how much of a pity it would be to see a language used by so many disappear on a state’s mere political necessity to “unify” its people. It just doesn’t seem fair, killing a language so that another might be exalted and reign supreme, especially if the possible death of such a language might currently be considered so insignificant that it wouldn’t even be found worth recording in the history books.

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