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The two official languages of Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. Cantonese is a South Chinese dialect spoken in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, Macau and Hong Kong itself. Cantonese is the language most often used in daily life. English is the most important language in commerce, banking and, for example, in the administration of justice. It is expected that after 1997 the number of English speakers will drop sharply. The Hongkongers who speak English well are often the richer ones. And these are also often the people who emigrate first. Those who stay behind, the working class, mainly speak Cantonese.

On the other hand, Mandarin Chinese is booming. There has been a large group of Mandarin Chinese-speaking Chinese in Hong Kong since 1950, mostly refugees. Until recently, the younger generation was not very interested in Mandarin Chinese. But the new political situation since 1997 has led many Hongkongers to believe that Mandarin Chinese will soon become the official language of Hong Kong. In addition, it is easier for a Cantonese speaker to learn Mandarin Chinese than it is for a native speaker.

Mandarin Chinese than to learn English.

Chinese is written in character, which does not represent a sound but an idea. The way they are written is also very important for the meaning. Writing a character takes between 1 and 33 pen strokes. Chinese can be written from left to right and from top to bottom, sometimes also from right to left.

The spoken language is also difficult for foreigners to understand. For example, seven different tones are used to distinguish the same syllables.


Bernstein, K. / Hong Kong

Groth, P. / Hongkong

Lyle, G. / Hong Kong
Chelsea House Publishers

Storey, R. / Hong Kong, Macau & Guangzhou
Lonely Planet

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info