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24 Hours: Is Cantonese a Dying Language?

Vancouver Chinatown

When I grew up in San Francisco in the 60’s and 70’s, almost everyone spoke Cantonese in Chinatown.
When I returned to the city after a 20 year absence in 2001, I was stunned to hear Mandarin widely spoken around San Francisco.
As immigration patterns changed, and more people came to San Francisco from Hong Kong and other parts of China outside of Guangzhou, the former Canton, Mandarin began to take hold.
Today I would guess about 50 percent of the Chinese speaking population in San Francisco speaks Mandarin.
In Vancouver, Canada, senior citizens in Chinatown fear that Cantonese is dying there.
24 Hours reports they’ve started a campaign to revive the language.
“What we found was there was a real interest among Cantonese-speaking seniors to share their language and their experience, and their culture.” said Carol White, executive director of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House. The group is sponsoring five tours this summer centered around the Cantonese language.
“Cantonese is a good language for us, and in Vancouver not a lot of people can speak Cantonese — that’s why we like to keep it.” said Yolanda Li, who will host some of the tours.
You can read about why Cantonese is dying in Vancouver Chinatown in 24 Hours.
Is Cantonese dying where you live? Share your thoughts below.


  1. RE: Is Cantonese a dying language? Yes. In 50 to 100 years it may be dead. China is not teaching it in schools anymore. Hong Kong is, but that will end soon, by 2047 at latest. No other school system will use it as daily language of instruction. Without some changes, it will die. Overseas Cantonese can start by using it for Chinese weekend school. That would be a great start.

  2. RE: Is Cantonese a dying language? Cantonese is growing as new immigrants pick up Cantonese or by watching TVB Cantonese programs In fact it is a widely spoken Chinese dialect/ language. If it is spoken less then so are other Chinese dialects. I noticed there are always articles targeting Cantonese being threatened Wwhy aren’t other people writing about other dialects? Cantonese should not be the target all the time. Cantonese should be highlighted since they did pave the way for new immigrants today.

  3. RE: Is Cantonese a dying language: There’s two things that I think needs to be clarified on this article. Cantonese should not be called a language. It is a dialect of the Chinese Language. Canton and Guangzhou are two different places. Canton is the province and Guangzhou is a city within Canton (Guangdong). Kind of like New York, New York.

  4. RE: Is Cantonese a dying language?: The Cantonese dialect along with the other Chinese dialects should be preserved. Even though Mandarin was the dialect of the masses, Cantonese did open many business trades during the early 20th century. When we start losing our dialects, we lose our culture.


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