By Li Yuyunting, Cendana ’20
其实，语言的魅力就在于它给我们一种穿越时空的归属感。当粤语响起，我仿佛又回到了我的故乡——那个我吃着早茶、为梦想奔波的地方。当粤语被移除，我们不仅失去一种语言，也失去了这份归属感与身份的象征。我当然不敢奢求所有深圳人都能熟练粤语，或者是像香港人在绝大多数时间使用粤语。我只是希望这美丽的语言能在普通话的大环境下保存，不要随时间永远地消逝。与其彻底移除粤语，倒不如尝试欣赏它，了解它，就如同去领略新的风景一样 。在保证不影响日常交流的情况下，在生活里添加一些新鲜与不同又何错之有呢？尼克拉斯∙奥斯特勒（Nicholas Ostler）曾说过，一种语言的消失将同时带走其承载的知识。如果因为现在的不理解而导致广东文化的流失， 值唔值得？
My hometown is called Shenzhen, the only city that connects the land of Hong Kong S.A.R and mainland China. Because of its geographical location, Shenzhen has served as the economic and cultural linkage between Hong Kong and mainland China for decades, and it has formed a unique view.
Because it locates in Canton (Guangdong Province), Shenzhen uses Yue Yu, known as Cantonese, like Guangzhou and Hong Kong. At the same time, Shenzhen uses Mandarin, the official language in mainland China. Because of this duality, Shenzhenians face no linguistic barriers when they travel to inland China or Hong Kong. At Shenzhen, metro broadcast plays Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, while those of other inland cities only play Mandarin and English. Additionally, Shenzhenians sometimes use Cantonese modal particles when speaking Mandarin such as 咩 (Mie, in questions) and 啫(Ze, in statements).
But this duality has caused controversies. As one of the Special Economic Zones of China, Shenzhen attracts many migrant workers from non-Cantonese speaking regions yearly. In fact, the non-hukou (unregistered permanent resident) population is 7.82 million while the hukou (registered permanent resident) population is 3.55 million, and it also includes newly registered immigrants. Hence, the usage of Cantonese, which is quite different from Mandarin, has caused discomfort among some of these migrant workers and immigrants. They believe the application of Cantonese is extremely limited, and its audience is much smaller than non-Cantonese speakers. Therefore, Cantonese should be removed, and only Mandarin shall be kept for the broadcast. This opinion of “Promote Mandarin and Abolish Cantonese” has seemingly become a recent trend. In my old high school, the sign that says, “Please speak Mandarin” can be seen around the campus. During and after classes, even local Cantonese students will not converse in Cantonese. This homogeneity contrasts with the situation in Hong Kong significantly. Because schools in Hong Kong still use Cantonese as their instruction language while Mandarin is only an elective course, Hong Kong has successfully preserved Cantonese and its culture.
One time my identity as Cantonese brought me exceptional joy was when Stephen Chow’s movie, Journey to the West II, launched in cinema during Chinese New Year. Although the movie uses Mandarin throughout, it subtly involves few Cantonese jokes. My Singaporean friend who sat next to me felt confused when I laughed so hard. After the movie, I explained the jokes to her, and she understood my amusement.
The charm of language is that it provides us a sense of belonging that travels across space and time. When I heard Cantonese all the way in Singapore, I felt like home again – the place where I eat dim sum and fight for my dreams. The removal of Cantonese is more than removing the language; it is a removal of the sense of belonging and the sense of identity. To be honest, I do not expect every Shenzhenian, including registered and unregistered permanent residents, to master Cantonese, or to be like the Hongkongnese who converses in Cantonese most of the time. I simply hope that this beautiful language can be preserved under the larger context of Mandarin prevalence, and not to fade with time. Instead of removing Cantonese completely, why not try to appreciate it, explore it, like what we do when introduced to a new scenery? Without impeding daily communication, how is it wrong to add some novelties and diversities into our lives? Nicolas Ostler once said, “… when languages are lost most of the knowledge that went with them gets lost”. If we remove the Cantonese culture simply because we fail to appreciate the language that carries it, will it be worth it?