Pedagogical Foci of Teaching Cantonese as a Second Language: From Linguistic Competence to Pragmatic Use

Pedagogical Foci of Teaching Cantonese as a Second Language: From Linguistic Competence to Pragmatic Use

Siu-lun Lee (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCDLM.2020010101

Abstract

When the West met East at the Pearl River delta during the 19th century, learning Cantonese as a second language was rooted in the area. Nowadays, there always exists a need by expatriates who are living and working in Hong Kong for learning the local language. The field was developed and influenced by theories in TESOL and foreign language education. It is also inspired by ideas and concepts of teaching Chinese as a second language since the learning of Mandarin Chinese has rapidly spread out in recent decades. Teaching Cantonese as a second language has developed with its own characteristics. This article reviews the development of teaching Cantonese as a second language in terms of pedagogical framework and teaching approaches. The article presents different pedagogical foci in the field of teaching Cantonese as a second language and discusses the academic debates whether to focus on linguistic competence or on pragmatic language use when teaching Cantonese as a second language in Hong Kong.
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1. Introduction

There were historical records showing that teaching Chinese as a second language (CanSL) was rooted in the 19th century, a time when there were substantial contacts between the East and the West (Bolton, 2003; Lee, 2005). Learners’ dictionaries and teaching guidebooks were produced and published since then (Lee, 2005). Starting from 19th century, teaching and learning Cantonese as a second language started to develop in Southern China. Learners included missionaries, diplomats and traders. Learners of Cantonese as a L2 in the 19th to mid-20th Century learnt the language mainly for practical reasons, such as for doing business, for doing clinical work, for working in government and diplomatic services or in the educational field.

Since Cantonese is the major language variety use by people in daily life in Hong Kong (Cheung, 1984), nowadays motivation of learners of Cantonese as a L2 becomes more complex. In recent years, some learners are motivated by practical needs and learn the language for work-related reasons. There are also heritage links, which motivate overseas Cantonese descendants as well as expatriates with Cantonese speaking spouse and family to learn. In addition, there are cultural reasons for admirers of the Hong Kong local culture to learn the language (Lee, 2018). Nowadays, teaching Chinese as a second language (CSL) becomes a worldwide trend. There always exists a need by expatriates who are living and working in Hong Kong. Teaching Cantonese as a second language appears as programmes or courses in Hong Kong’s universities. If we look at the field diachronically CanSL started with approaches following structural linguists and now the teaching approaches are following the socio-pragmatic notion (Sapir, 1921; Sapir, 1929; Hymes, 1972) of language. In present days, teachers and learners are looking for a teaching approach which can help training the abilities to communicate in daily situations and in work situations in the real-world settings using the target language. This paper discusses the developments in teaching Cantonese as a second language in terms of pedagogical foci. This paper also discusses the various teaching approaches adopted in teaching Cantonese as a second language.

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