Searching for second source on indigenous languages/ Cantonese in schools post- WW2?

Submitted by emmaleemoss on Mon, 04/22/2024 - 16:00

Dear Gwulo community,

I found the below passage in an Al Jazeera article on the decline of indigenous languages in HK. I'm interested to know if anyone knows of a secondary source for the closing of village schools and formalisation of Cantonese in education? Thank you to the users of this forum who have such wide resources! Emma

"Until 1945, they were one of four main native groups in the territory. That changed when the civil war in China sent more than a million Cantonese refugees across the border into the British colony between 1945 and 1951.

It was also during this period that the colonial government closed all village schools that were teaching in the various indigenous languages. They opened new institutions that only taught in Cantonese."…

That's interesting - I knew that Hakka is disappearing, but I hadn't heard that closing the village schools was one of the causes.

This article looks at village boys' schooling before WW2, and confirms that many of the teachers in the village schools used Hakka as the teaching language:

I'm not sure about the post-WW2 policies though. Maybe or would have some information?

Please let us know what you find out.

I forget where, but I recall reading somewhere that the teaching in Hakka in gov't schools ended in 1964.  I must endeavour to ask next time I have yum cha with a good friend - who had (like many) migrated a bit before then - what the state-of-play in his village was before he left.

The gov't school in a rather remote Hakka area where I used to live was closed long after 1945-1951.  I'd imagine as so many had left, so not many children needing schooling (when did mandatory education become law?) & at some point in the 1970s roads finally reaching that far meant getting into "town" didn't require a several hour hike over the hills to get to school.

A bay where I go swimming in north Lantau is frequented by folks in small boats net fishing.  I suspect they come from Tai O.  Some of them look to be quite a bit younger than me.  I still have yet to figure out what it is that they speak to each other in - it doesn't sound like anything Yue.

The water people & the land people generally didn't get along with each other, for various reasons apparently.  And the Hakka arrived later, so they settled in areas not already settled, generally isolated & less suitable for farming.

And it wasn't just Cantonese-speaking folks from nearby who came here in droves toward the end of the 40s & later.

So with the exception of geographical/social isolation being a reason why some folks kept talking to each other in their native tongue - a number of things that Ms Gopalan has written conflicts with what I understand... though although I wasn't born here as she was, it appears I've lived here a bit longer.  Much of that time in NT (mostly Hakka) villages.

Why it was when I did jury duty that someone in the witness stand was said to be speaking "punti" I suspect might have something to do with it all, as explained to me by a friend in the police: the Official Languages Ordinance referring to simply "Chinese" created a bit of a problem given all the different dialects of all the various migrants who fled to HK.  Whether it be court translators or teaching in schools, the solution was everything going 本地.