17 September 2019
Cantonese is integral to the legacy of late kungfu master Bruce Lee, whose ancestral roots are in Foshan. Photos:,
Cantonese is integral to the legacy of late kungfu master Bruce Lee, whose ancestral roots are in Foshan. Photos:,

Word from top: Foshan abandons Cantonese, traditional characters

The official word from Foshan is that Cantonese and traditional characters are not only mostly off the air, they’re off the menu.

Government departments, media outlets, schools and public services in the Guangdong city have been ordered to use Putonghua for the bulk of their communications while some advertisers and restaurants have been told to stick to simplified characters in their promotional materials and menus.

Citing a Southern Metropolis Daily report that has since been pulled, Wen Wei Po reported Monday that the authorities will check on the use of Putonghua in government and local media in October, by which time 80 percent of radio and television programs will have to be in the national tongue. 

The aim is for government departments and schools to spearhead the use of Putonghua throughout the province as part of a national push to standardise communication around the country.

Government departments will be rated higher in assessments if they use Putonghua during conferences and official activities while kindergartens and primary schools will have to adopt Putonghua for all communication rather than just during lessons. Teachers are also required to write in simplified Chinese instead of traditional characters, the report said.

Restaurants, culture and entertainment services are to abandon traditional characters in their promotional materials, user guides and even restaurant menus, the report said. This applies also to company names and product names unless they are antiques, handwritten or registered trademarks.

The report quoted one man working at a subdistrict office in Foshan’s Chancheng District as saying that dialects are commonly used during work. “Some senior company leaders may not understand Putonghua, so we won’t use Putonghua during meetings unless the company leaders don’t speak Cantonese,” he said.

He said officials could run into problems implementing the new rules because many villagers don’t understand Putonghua.

One online commenter said the limits on the use of characters might get in the way of creativity.

Prior to this, some media reports said the Guangdong Television News Channel will make the full switch from Cantonese to Putonghua in September, sparking speculation that Cantonese will soon be marginalized.

Hourly news programs between 9am and 5pm have already made the change with new Putonghua hosts, but other news programs and advertisements continue to use Cantonese, TVB reported on July 10. The whole channel is likely to change to Putonghua for all programs.

Related stories: 

Cantonese gaining popularity in Shanghai 

Guangdong TV News to switch to Putonghua

New Cantonese dictionary creates buzz. ‘Gun jam bing’, anyone? 

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