Mandarin Schmandarin


Last month I was feeling a little down in the dumps; I felt that life was a cruel joke and nothing was going my way. For a while I didn’t even have that old chestnut, my health, normally so dependable, due to a bout of shark flu. Also Flying Eagle was leaving and that rammed home how transient life is and Hong Kong in particular. Where else in the world do you have to get an entirely new set of friends every three years?


I felt I was up knob creek without a paddle, quite frankly. So I dusted off my feminine side and let it rip to a friend over lunch and wine. And then she said this thing (trying to be helpful, I know!): “Why don’t you teach Mandarin? I’m sure that’s more profitable than Cantonese.” I said “Friend, have you ever met me? I hate Mandarin! I hate hearing it everywhere in Hong Kong and I hate the way the mainland government think they have a monopoly on Chinese and Chinese characters. I hate it! I’d rather rip off my arm and stuff it up my nostril!”

“I think it’s a beautiful language,” she said.


Look, it’s not the language per se, okay? I’m sure it’s fine, in fact when I arrived in Beijing fresh of the train from Norway in 1988 I thought it was a heavenly sound and set about learning it post haste. No, it’s what it stands for that I hate. Neo-imperialism, communism, control, suppression, cultural arrogance, violence and domination, and not least, simplified characters. Mandarin seeks to obliterate Cantonese and the Hong Kong culture, replacing it with plastic crap. Why should I be instrumental in hastening this process? Why should I go against my principles and actively trample on all I believe in just to make a few dollars?


But the good thing was, her innocent remark made me want keep fighting for Cantonese. Every time I get a new student, there is one more of us and one fewer of them!

國語 – Gok yu (National language/Mandarin)
簡體字 – Gan tai ji (Simplified characters)
道德 – Dou dak (Moral, ethics)

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