Hong Kong Language

Stefan Magdalinski/FlickrWhat are the differences between Macau and Hong Kong? The neighboring cities are just a one-hour ferry ride apart, but their histories and economies make them two very different places.

An investigation into these multicultural cities reveals the variety of ways people communicate and do business. In such diverse locales, different communities with different heritages interact vibrantly, with various levels of ease. Macau and Hong Kong are the only two multicultural, Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China, which means they are autonomous territories that fall within the sovereignty of China.

There are numerous distinctions between the linguistic and business landscapes of the two areas, which stem from their individual colonial histories, economic patterns and relations with Mainland China.

What’s the Difference?

Situated 65km west of Hong Kong, Macau is a unique city in China. Though its Mediterranean style architecture and food reflect its Portuguese colonial history, the city has an underlying traditional, almost sacred style. As the only place in China where gambling is legal, the juxtaposition of its beauty with its identity as the ‘Vegas of the East’ make it a fascinating place to visit.

A former British colony on the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong has always been a thriving trading hub. Discover Hong Kong relays its colorful history. In the early 20th century, the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from Mainland China contributed to Hong Kong’s position as a world leader in manufacturing. In recent years, as the economy of Mainland China has begun to open up, Hong Kong has adopted a service-based economy and has become an important gateway to the world’s largest market in China.

Language in Macau

Victor Mair of Language Log reports on Macau and Hong Kong, describing Macau as an exceptionally multilingual city, where locals speak Cantonese, Portuguese, English and Mandarin.

Mair gives an example of the name of an island called Taipa, which is part of Macau. According to Wikipedia, Taipa has been known by many different names throughout history. However, the name Cantonese speakers call the place does not sound anything like “Taipa, ” the European name that appears on signs and maps of the area.

Mair in fact suspects that Taipa has a Portuguese etymology, which would demonstrate the extent to which the native language has been influenced by the region’s colonial history.

Ingrid Pillar, also refers to multilingual Macau in Language on the Move. She says although the official languages are Chinese and Portuguese, English plays a very important role. It is the medium of instruction at the University of Macau and a number of secondary schools.

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