In an article that appeared on BBC, Liu (2017) presents the current state of the two Hong Kong languages of Cantonese and Mandarin and the various dynamics that have shaped how the two languages are perceived since Hong Kong was given back to China by the British government in 1997. The author observes that since then, only a few people spoke Mandarin as opposed to the current development which has seen an increase in the number of people speaking the language. Despite this realization, a considerable percentage of people in Hong Kong have lost interest in Mandarin, also known as Putonghua. A trend has surfaced in which people, especially the young, are refusing to speak the language as they consider it a taboo. Most have preferred the use of Cantonese.
From the author's interaction with a Chinese and Bilingual studies professor at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong, it is evident that most young people reject or ignore Mandarin due to its association with the mainland Chinese origin. The mainland China exists as a reminder of bondage and colonization by the British. Even though the mainland Chinese government has enforced the language as the official and standard language to be used, the language is increasingly being socially rejected in Hong Kong as most Chinese nationals are not proud of the language. Liu (2017) samples the results of 2016 annual poll by the University of Hong Kong highlighting that just a mere 31% of Chinese nationals felt proud of their Chinese identities, which is a decrease from the previous year. The article reveals that more than a billion speakers still communicate in Mandarin, a harsh realization for those who resent the language with preference to Cantonese. This insight insinuates that higher chances of success and wealth creation lie in understanding and socializing in Mandarin. This is true without considering the political perception of the language. One surprising realization from the author's perspective is that in Hong Kong, most parents seek schools in which English or Mandarin, as opposed to Cantonese, are the major languages of teaching. With regards to top school consultancies, 99% of both local and expatriate clients favored Mandarin (Liu, 2017). It is no surprise, therefore, that Cantonese, even though preferred by the younger generation in Hong Kong, is not valued much in the formal educational context. This is well backed up with the view that parents generally want their children to be socially fluent in Cantonese but learn literacy in Mandarin as stipulated by the Chinese government. As far as cultural preservation is concerned, the Hong Kong residents are deeply worried that their cultural identity inherent in Cantonese is in danger. With the preference of Mandarin, most residents in the city are bitter and angered that their culture will be rendered irrelevant by the mainland China (Chang, 2017).
Cultural identity, represented by Cantonese is slowly dying, and there is a need to maintain its relevance. The author's concern about the social rejection of Mandarin by Hong Kong dwellers is valid considering as far as the historical background of the language is concerned. Cantonese dates back as early as 220AD while Mandarin came as late as the 14th century and was popularized by the communist party. In essence, Cantonese has deeper cultural roots in the Hong Kong residents than Mandarin. The Chinese government and the Hong Kong government have often clashed regarding the use of language to propagate cultural identities (Wong and Tsoi, 2017). Arguably, Cantonese sets apart the uniqueness of Hong Kong from the mainland and therefore means much more to Hong Kong residents than Mandarin ever will. This explains why the social rejection of the Mandarin is on the rise.
Having interacted with the contents, of course, the material, it is of great significance to understand that language is one of the core dimensions of cross-cultural management and its role in the communicative, emotional and social aspect of a societal group cannot be overemphasized. In various social environments including workplaces and learning institutions like colleges, the role of language in terms of interactions is greatly significant. It opens the door to a cultural expedition among members of different cultures. A conscious understanding of the linguistic disparities that exist among languages is the beginning of cultural understanding and tolerance. Taking into consideration the case of Cantonese and Mandarin as agents of Chinese cultural socialization, it is of great importance to be well conversant with the political and social conflicts that exist as far as the usage of the two languages is concerned. Being culturally conscious is a sure way in which conflicts can be avoided or resolved while also incorporating some aspects of emotional intelligence at the same time.
My personal interaction with Mandarin or Cantonese speaking people has never resulted in any kind of tense emotional environments until when politics comes into play. Little made sense to me until I took time to understand some aspects of the Chinese culture. The Chinese and the Japanese culture are some of the cultures whose overreliance on indirect notions, reactions and responses to gestures, comments and other signs are inherent in their languages (Snyder, 2006). An appropriate interpretation of these features can really improve social fusion and understanding especially if an outsider gets a chance to either interact with, or intends to study say either Cantonese or Mandarin. I have come to realize that Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong sprinkle their language with a little bit of English words and this can be attributed to the British cultural influences. This mixing of speech pattern, as learned from some bilingual and trilingual colleagues from Hong Kong, is referred to as "Kongish". I also came to learn that there are no efforts laid down by the Chinese government to promote the retention of indigenous languages (Gopalan, 2017). Working with people from multicultural backgrounds opens up diverse cultures which are very important to get associated with. Cross-cultural management accords organizations and businesses opportunities to provide cultural elements that employees can experience away from home. There are a plethora of benefits that both the employees and the employers can gain from establishing a culturally competent and conscious work environment (Dupuis, 2013). The same benefits can be of great help in social and education institutions in which international students undertake their studies.
People's connections with their cultures bear a lot of significance according to their beliefs systems, histories, customs and traditions (Wildman, Griffith and Armon, 2016). Also, working with teams whose members' identities go beyond cultural boundaries require cultural competence so that employees get opportunities to improve their interpersonal skills and widen their perspectives as well. Tying this concept to management, it can really enhance cooperation, which has become a core agenda around many business tables around the world. The success of business and organizations is tied to cooperation and partnerships that are built through mutual respect to cultures, ways of life, religion and much more. This idea brings to focus the notion of human connections and the recognition of what matters most in the ways of life of other people. Preferential treatment through dialogues and exchanges between business partners or clients has been core in culturing and nurturing confidence in others. People respect those who respect and understand their culture, and this realm can only be boosted by cultural consciousness. Through the perspective given on the case of Cantonese and Mandarin, I have learnt that cultural identity matters more to a particular society than any other thing. People take much pride in their cultures and can go beyond social expectations to uphold it. For instance, in Hong Kong, the social rejection of Mandarin and preference for Cantonese indicates that the winds of change know no law or government policy. The fact that Mandarin was imposed on Hong Kong residents by the mainland China government does not mean the language means nothing to the people of Hong Kong. So important is the appeal to human soft spots, culture or otherwise, that a myriad of connections is attached to them.
In conclusion, it has been proven beyond measure that cultures are at the core of human relations and the foundation of good intercultural relationship hinges on the capability to uphold, respect and appreciate other people's ways of life. Organizations which incorporate cultural consciousness stand hire chances of success especially where there is multiculturalism. Agents of cross-cultural management incorporated with cultural consciousness or intelligence are better tools for managing conflicts, enhancing awareness, shaping attitudes, attaching values to people's ways of life and much more. Therefore, exposure to many cultures enriches perspectives and takes an individual closer to perfection.
Dupuis, J. (2013). New approaches in cross-cultural management research. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 14(1), pp.67-84.
Chang, C. (2017). Hong Kong's language and culture is endangered by a purely political concept of Chinese identity. [online] Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Available at: https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/07/04/hk20-hong-kongs-language-culture-endangered-purely-political-concept-chinese-identity/ [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].
Gopalan, D. (2017). Hong Kong's disappearing indigenous culture. [online] Aljazeera.com. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2017/10/hong-kong-disappearing-indigenous-culture-171015084322253.html [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].
Liu, J. (2017). When Hong Kong languages get political. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-40406429 [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].
Snyder, S. (2006). Chinese Traditions and Ecology: Survey Article. Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology, 10(1), pp.100-134.
Wildman, J. L., Griffith, R. L., & Armon, B. K. (2016). Critical Issues in Cross Cultural Management. Cham, Springer International Publishing. http://ezproxy.uniandes.edu.co:8080/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42166-7.
Wong, T. and Tsoi, G. (2017). What happened to all the predictions about Hong Kong?. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-40363751 [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].
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