More and more, ambitious parents in Hong Kong are giving their children a head-start in English by putting them into English-speaking play groups, kindergartens and international schools. At these elite institutions, Mandarin Chinese is sometimes taught as a second language.
As for the local Cantonese dialect, who cares?
I am saddened. What will happen to those age-old nursery rhymes our grandmothers taught us, the songs we sang at kindergarten, those Tang-dynasty poems that every preschool child was taught to recite?
And surely the classic tales of the “Twenty-four pious sons” — the stories that the Chinese have used to teach their children about the Confucian virtue of filial piety since the 14th century — can’t have the same cultural resonance when translated into English.
Besides, Cantonese carries echoes of ancient Chinese that no longer exist in the official Mandarin. It is a lively language full of colorful expressions.
It is our heritage, and if we don’t pass it on, who will?