The Languages of Hong Kong
With the Chinese control of Hong Kong, Mandarin is being spoken more often
than before. Chinese and English are the two official languages with
Cantonese officially recognized, as it is the most popular dialect.
English is taught in schools and is the second official language in Hong Kong,
thus making communication with visitors easier than in other Asian areas. Most
signs, among other things, are written in both English and Chinese, making it
a little easier for foreigners to get around Hong Kong.
Han people have their own spoken and written language. Chinese belongs to
the Han-Tibetan language family. It is the most commonly used language in
China, and one of the most commonly used languages in the world.
Written Chinese emerged in its embryonic form of carved symbols approximately
6,000 years ago. The Chinese characters used today evolved from those used
in bone and tortoise shell inscriptions more than 3,000 years ago and the bronze
inscriptions produced soon after.
Drawn figures were gradually reduced to patterned stroke, pictographs were
reduced to symbols, and the complicated graphs became simpler. Early
pictographs and ideographs were joined by pictophonetic characters.
fact, there are six categories of Chinese characters: pictographs,
self-explanatory characters, associative compounds, pictophonetic characters,
phonetic loan characters, and mutually explanatory characters.
words are monosyllabic. A large proportion of Chinese characters are
composed of an ideogramatic element combined with a phonetic element.
non-Chinese sometimes get the feeling that there are an unlimited number of
Chinese characters. There are about 56,000 characters, of which only about
3,000 are in common use. In addition to their functional value as symbols
for records and communication, Chinese characters have an aesthetic value as
of China's 55 minority people have their own languages, except the Hui and
Manchu, who use Chinese; 23 of these have a written form. Nowadays,
classes in schools in predominantly national minority areas are taught in the
local language, using local language textbooks.