Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin: survey

Mandarin is less well loved in Hong Kong than most other “icons” of China, according to the results of a survey there.

Although the percentage of those who described themselves as “averse” (kàngjù) to Mandarin is quite small (in the single digits), it has quadrupled since 2006 (1.8% to 7.3%). (I’m using the English and Mandarin terms given in the source material.)

Meanwhile, the percentage of those who are “affectionate” (q?nqiè) toward Mandarin has dropped, though not to an all-time low. And the percentage of those who are “proud” (zìháo) of Mandarin is also down, though it remains much higher than it was in 1994 when the survey began.

Affection toward, pride in, and averseness to Mandarin in Hong Kong, 1994-2010
graph showing affection toward Mandarin in the 27-35% range, pride in Mandarin rising from 19% to 34% percent but dropping since 2006, and aversion to Mandarin at around 3% until the climb to about 8% in 2010

Interestingly, averseness to Mandarin has been growing, while averseness to most other mainland icons has been dropping.

In the graphs below I have omitted some surveyed icons — Hong Kong’s regional flag/emblem, the night view of Victoria Harbor, the Legislative Council building, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building, and the Bank of China Building — to keep the graphs from getting too busy looking and because those are within Hong Kong itself.

The lines for Mandarin are in dark red. Click to enlarge the images to a useful size.

Percentage of respondents feeling “averse to” Mandarin (“Putonghua”) and other Chinese icons
graph

Percentage of respondents feeling “affectionate towards” Mandarin (“Putonghua”) and other Chinese icons
graph

Percentage of respondents feeling “proud of” Mandarin (“Putonghua”) and other Chinese icons
graph

But even though Mandarin hasn’t gained much affection recently from the people of Hong Kong, it’s still far more liked than the least popular of the PRC’s institutions: the police (g?ng’?n).

sources and further reading:

China and U.S. study abroad programs

China remained the fifth most popular destination for U.S. students studying abroad during the 2008/09 school year, and it continued to account for 5 percent of U.S. study abroad.

In the previous academic year, growth for the PRC as a destination increased 19.0 percent, while study abroad as a whole increased 8.5 percent. But for 2008/09 growth for China was a much smaller 3.9 percent, while the total worldwide figure declined -0.8 percent. Figures for the top four destinations also dropped.

The order of the top 10 remained the same as in the previous year, except Mexico and Germany switched places.

Top 10 destinations for study abroad by U.S. students in the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 school years
China shown as the fifth most popular destination for study abroad. The top destination is the U.K., followed by Italy, Spain, and France. See the link to my source material for the actual numbers.

Some other figures of possible interest:

  • Japan was in 11th place with 5,784 students, a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year.
  • Taiwan’s total grew 3.3 percent to 597.
  • Hong Kong grew 5.7 percent to 1,155.
  • South Korea grew a dramatic 29.1 percent to 2,062.
  • Singapore grew 7.7 percent to 612.

Study in Asia increased slightly.

Percent of study abroad performed in Asia
chart showing percentage of study abroad in Asia flat at about 6% from 1996-2000, with growth increasing since 2003 to the present 11.1% for the 2008-09 school year

source: Open Doors data portal

Previous posts on this subject:

China and U.S. study abroad programs

China has become the fifth most popular destination for U.S. students in study abroad programs, according to the results of a newly released study.

Top 10 destinations for study abroad by U.S. students in the 2006-07 school year
China shown as the fifth most popular destination for study abroad. The top destination is the UK, followed by Italy, Spain, and France.

It was only a few years ago that China made it into the top ten for the first time.

Top 10 destinations for study abroad by U.S. students in the 2000-01 school year
China shown as the tenth most popular destination for study abroad. The top destination is the UK, followed by Italy, Spain, and France.

The trend evident by comparing the two graphs is also backed up by the numbers: There has been a tremendous increase in the number of American students receiving credit for study abroad.

This latest increase marks a decade of unprecedented growth in the number of American students receiving academic credit for their overseas academic experience, with an increase of close to 150%, from under 100,000 in 1996/97 to nearly a quarter of a million in 2006/07.

Moreover, there has been an increasing interest in non-traditional destinations. In 1996-97, Europe took in 64 percent of U.S. students studying abroad. Although it continues to attract a majority (57 percent) of such students, many other destinations are receiving more students than ever, “fueled in part by an increase in new program opportunities, partnerships between higher education institutions in the United States and abroad, and a range of fields and program durations to accommodate the needs of an increasingly diverse study abroad population.”

Percent of study abroad performed in various parts of the world, 2006-07
Europe 57%, Latin America 15% , Asia 10%, Oceania 6%, Africa 4%, Middle East 1%, multiple destinations 7%

China’s growth as a destination has been strong this decade, other than a dip during the SARS outbreak. Note, however, that China has yet to receive even 5 percent of U.S. study abroad students in any given year, so please don’t misinterpret this post as yet more media hype proclaiming “Everyone’s going to China!” (For the 2006-2007 school year, the figure was 4.6 percent.)

Percent of study abroad performed in select Asian destinations, 1996-2006
percentage of study abroad students in select Asian destinations, 1996-2006; sharp growth for China; also dramatic growth for India, but from a lower baseline; Japan stays flat

The growth of interest in China has helped fuel Asia taking in greater numbers of students. Taiwan has also more than doubled the percentage of U.S. study abroad students it takes in, though the percentage remains so low that this is difficult to see on the graph.

Percent of study abroad performed in Asia, 1996-2006
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Note that there’s no indication of just how long people stayed in given destinations. So it’s possible that students spent much more time on average in, say, England than in China — or vice versa.

Here’s the overall breakdown for the time students spent studying abroad:

  • 55% in short-term programs (“including summer, January term and any program of 2 to 8 weeks during the academic year”)
  • about 36% in semester-long programs
  • over 40% in mid-length programs (one semester, one quarter or two quarters)
  • less than 5% spend a full academic or calendar year abroad

source: Open Doors 2008: Report on International Educational Exchange

Further reading for students interested in study abroad: IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding.

status of Cantonese: a survey-based study

The latest new release from Sino-Platonic Papers is one that I think will be of particular interest to readers of Pinyin News. It’s an extensive study of not only the attitudes of speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin toward the status of Cantonese but also their beliefs about its future, especially in Hong Kong: Language or Dialect–or Topolect? A Comparison of the Attitudes of Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese towards the Status of Cantonese (650 KB PDF), by Julie M. Groves.

This study reports on a comparative survey of three groups of Chinese: 53 Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, 18 Mainland Chinese Cantonese speakers, and 72 Mainland Chinese Putonghua speakers. It was found that the Putonghua speakers held more ‘classic’ views, the majority seeing Cantonese as a dialect. In contrast, only just over half the Hong Kongers and two-fifths the Mainland Cantonese speakers considered it clearly a dialect, while one-third of all respondents favoured a mid-point classification. The differing perspectives held by the groups can be traced to their different political and linguistic situations, which touch issues of identity.

The author notes, “The uncertainties in classification also reflect a problem with terminology. The Chinese word usually translated dialect, fangyan (??), does not accurately match the English word dialect.” Groves recommends the adoption of Victor Mair’s proposed English word for fangyan: topolect.

Although this focuses on the dialect vs. language debate, it covers much more than that. Those being surveyed were also asked questions such as:

  • Where do you think the best Cantonese is spoken?
  • Do you think Putonghua will eventually replace Cantonese as the main, everyday language of Hong Kongers?
  • Do you think it is possible for someone to consider themselves to be a Hong Konger (or Hong Kong Chinese/Chinese Hong Konger) without being able to speak Cantonese?

The results of the study may also prove useful for those interested in the future of other languages of China and Taiwan, such as Taiwanese and Shanghainese.

Here are a couple of the many graphs found in the study.

HK Cant = Hong Kong Cantonese speakers
MCant = mainland Cantonese speakers
MPTH = mainland speakers of Mandarin (“P?t?nghuà“)

graph of responses to the question 'Will Putonghua replace Cantonese as the main language of Hong Kongers?' Most say 'no' -- and this is strongest among mainland Cantonese speakers

graph of responses to the question 'Can a person be a Hong Konger without speaking Cantonese?' Most Hong Kong Cantonese speakers say no; but the answer is closer to a tie for mainland Mandarin speakers

English + Chinese characters for Cantonese: Number 1!

Andy Lau being presented with the calligraphy scroll discussed in this postJoel of Danwei has posted about an interesting calligraphy scroll presented to Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau.

The characters read “You Are No. 1!”

That’s not a translation: the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters ?????! (“yiu a nam ba wan!”) approximates the English sentence.

I just love stuff like this.

Read in Mandarin this is just gibberish, especially the character ?.

Read the whole post for details.

The technique also recalls the cover of Visible Speech, by John DeFrancis, which renders part of the Gettysburg Address phonetically in various scripts, some more closely than others (see the bottom line for Chinese characters with Mandarin pronunciations):
'four score and seven years ago' in lots of different scripts

source: If you can read this, you’re Number One!, Danwei, December 6, 2007

Hong Kong moves to increase teaching in Mandarin, decrease teaching in Cantonese

The Hong Kong government’s Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (“Scolar” — heh) yesterday launched a HK$200 million (US$25.8 million) campaign to help schools use Mandarin as the medium for instruction.

Half of the money will be used to hire extra teachers, with the other half used to bring in mainland teaching experts.

To qualify for this funding, schools must demonstrate competence in teaching “Chinese” in Mandarin and be ready to switch 40 percent of “Chinese language teaching” from Cantonese to Mandarin within three years. The scheme is expected to start at the beginning of the next academic year and last for more than three years.

Each year about 30 primary and 10 secondary schools will be added to the program.

Scolar Chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun said that his committee “has agreed that Putonghua [i.e., Mandarin] should be used as a medium of instruction for Chinese language subjects in the long term.”

This does not bode well for the future of Cantonese.

sources:

software to test Mandarin pronunciation

Chinese scientists have developed a computer program to test how well people speak Mandarin Chinese.

The technology will help improve oral testing of Chinese and promote Mandarin Chinese both at home and abroad, said Fu Yong, former deputy director of the State Language Work Committee.

The technology was jointly developed by the Acoustics Institute and the Software Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Lab experiments show that more than 98 percent of the results given by the computer evaluation system were as same as the results given by linguists, said Ju Qi, deputy director of the Acoustics Institute.

The system will be introduced to Mandarin Chinese examinations in Hong Kong’s middle schools and universities.

source: China resorts to computer to test Mandarin Chinese, People’s Daily, via Xinhua, May 23, 2007

results of Hong Kong tests in Mandarin and English

The government of Hong Kong has released the results of February’s proficiency exams for prospective teachers of English and of Mandarin. A total of 1,836 candidates took the English exam, while 2,209 candidates were tested in Mandarin.

Here are the percentages of candidates attaining level 3, the basic proficiency requirement for language teachers, in 2007:

  • English
    • 78.8% in reading
    • 38.3% in writing
    • 80.4% in listening
    • 47.7% in speaking
    • 92.7% in classroom-language assessment
  • Mandarin
    • 39.6% in listening and recognition
    • 56.5% in Pinyin
    • 35.6% in speaking
    • 83.4% in classroom-language assessment

Percentages of candidates attaining level 3, the basic proficiency requirement for language teachers, in 2006:

  • English
    • 85.5% in reading
    • 45.9% in writing
    • 74.3% in listening
    • 37.0% in speaking
    • 92.7% in classroom-language assessment (exactly the same as in 2007 — strange)
  • Mandarin
    • 54% in listening and recognition
    • 50% in Pinyin
    • 38% in speaking
    • 85% in classroom-language assessment

sources and further reading: