In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin

The New York Times reports from New York on the switch away from Cantonese to as the dominant language:

With Mandarin’s ascent has come a realignment of power in Chinese-American communities, where the recent immigrants are gaining economic and political clout, said Peter Kwong, a professor of Asian-American studies at Hunter College.

“The fact of the matter is that you have a whole generation switch, with very few people speaking only Cantonese,” he said. The Cantonese-speaking populace, he added, “is not the player anymore.”

The switch mirrors a sea change under way in China, where Mandarin, as the official language, is becoming the default tongue everywhere.

In North America, its rise also reflects a major shift in immigration. For much of the last century, most Chinese living in the United States and Canada traced their ancestry to a region in the Pearl River Delta that included the district of Taishan. They spoke the Taishanese dialect, which is derived from and somewhat similar to Cantonese.

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