By Chester Leung
As a student who has taken Cantonese classes at City College, I am disappointed that there is another delay in the approval of the 16-unit Cantonese certificate. The Cantonese-speaking community can no longer wait. Cantonese has come under attack internationally and here in the Bay Area, from the closure of Hong Kong Language Learning Association (港語學) to the CCSF Cantonese program dropping from five instructors to only one. The Cantonese-speaking community needs a stronger state-backed certificate to prevent future endeavors to eliminate the Cantonese program.
The primary argument against the draft 16-unit certificate is the belief that it is pedagogically weak to have a degree program without characters and a dedicated grammar course. Sadly, written Cantonese has not achieved universal acceptance. The Chinese that is being written down in Cantonese-speaking places is Mandarin spoken in Cantonese, which is unnecessary to include in the Cantonese program when we already have a Mandarin program. Many people, including the sole Cantonese instructor at CCSF, view Cantonese as an oral language. I have even conducted a survey to see if students are interested in said classes and an overwhelming majority are not. The curriculum committee should not force its standards on students, faculty, and the Cantonese-speaking community.
I would argue that the certificate should instead include cultural classes that better suit students’ needs. Currently, the draft certificate includes Asian American classes that help students understand the struggle of early Cantonese-speaking immigrants in the United States. This can be complemented with “ASIA 11,” which will give students a historical understanding of China, and create a love for Chinese characters that will motivate them to continue their Cantonese studies in other colleges that do have Cantonese classes that have reading and writing components.
Find Leung’s full piece here.