Monday, September 29, 2008

Bilingualism in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a bilingual city, its residents speaking and which are both official languages of Hong Kong under the Hong Kong Basic Law and the .

English as an official language

The British Hong Kong in 1840 as a free port to serve as an entrep?t of the British Empire, and the British Authorities and businessmen spoke . Caucasian Hong Kongers remained the ethnic and linguistic majority until the early 1900s when Chinese immigrants began to outnumber the British. The British continued to use English as an official language, but added as an official language of the colony in late 1970s.

Following the of the colony, is still widely used in law and business, and it is still taught in schools and spoken by over 30% of the population. The British have also left their language on place names within Hong Kong, particularly on Hong Kong Island, where British rule had the largest impact.

Cantonese as an official language

, the Chinese dialect of Guangdong and other parts of southern became an official language of Hong Kong when the Chinese population of the colony grew . Hong Kong's population reached 6.99 million in 2006, of which approximately 95% are of , the majority of which was , Hakka, and Teochew.

Most Chinese Hongkongers speak Cantonese at home and approximately 33% know English as a second language.

Code-switching in Hong Kong

Code-switching, or the practice of using more than one language in conversation, is very common in Hong Kong. It usually involves a mix of Cantonese and as a result of the bilingualism in Hong Kong.

Other languages in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is home to a wide range of ethnicities, and substantial portions of Hongkongers are neither native English nor Cantonese speakers. is the largest non-official language, with over 25,000 Japanese people in Hong Kong. refugees emigrated to Hong Kong and still speak as their first language.

There is a significant number of South Asians in Hong Kong. Signboards written in Hindi or Urdu are common in areas with South Asians, and languages such as , and are often heard on the streets of Hong Kong as well.

There are also two newspapers written in Nepalese in Hong Kong, ''The Everest'' and the ''Sunrise Weekly Hong Kong''. In 2004, the Home Affairs Bureau and Metro Plus 1044 jointly launched radio shows ''Hong Kong-Pak Tonight'' in Urdu and ''Harmo Sagarmatha'' in Nepalese.

is used frequently among members of Muslim communities in Hong Kong, and it is quickly becoming a popular . .

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