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Protecting Minority Languages-A comparison between Cree in Western Canada and Cantonese in Southern China.pdf University of Alberta


Author or creator
Yanbo Yang
Additional contributors
Minority language, Cantonese, Cree, Language revitalization
Type of item
Both China and Canada are multilingual and multicultural countries. According to the United Nations (UN) independent expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák (UN News Centre, 2013, online), “Language is a central element and expression of identity and of key importance in the preservation of group identity. It is particularly important to linguistic minority communities seeking to maintain their distinct group and cultural identity, sometimes under conditions of marginalization, exclusion and discrimination.” Cantonese, as one of the most important minority languages in China, is viewed with conflicting perspectives on its status. On the one hand, the public believe that the promotion of Mandarin affects the transmission of Cantonese. On the other hand, the state released the policy for language revitalization, but it was not yet followed by specific plans. By comparison, in order to develop Cree, one of the most influential Indigenous languages, Canada is making efforts to revitalize it in terms of education programs and community engagement. Thus, based on a comparison between two countries, combining with the author’s life and learning experience, the rationale of the paper is to investigate the revitalization of Cantonese and to propose some concrete actions that could be taken. The two research questions under consideration are: 1. What differences are there between China and Canada regarding their attitudes towards Cantonese and Cree, respectively? 2. To promote Cantonese, what might China learn from Canada? The author synthesizes relevant literature to conduct the comparative research. The paper begins with some background information on Cantonese and Cree. Next, an item-by-item comparison is made in the three categories of language policies, public attitudes and educational programs. Finally, the author suggests a language revitalization plan from the perspective of community engagement and language programming. To be specific, two models from the FNMI Collaborative Framework and the Northland Community Engagement Framework were firstly applied to China’s context to increase community engagement. Next, the author employs a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to make a language planning with a detailed analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, then creates an action plan from the perspectives of curriculum development, community research and planning, combined regional and virtual schools, orientation program, building a Centre for Cantonese learning excellence and governance. However, in spite of the many aspects which lead Canada to be a role model for China in revitalizing Cantonese, Canada is still facing some challenges in Indigenous language development. Therefore, the limitation of the research is also discussed.
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