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‘Advocate for greater recognition’: Cal for Cantonese seeks language support, resources on campus

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Cal for Cantonese is looking to increase funding for intermediate and advanced Cantonese courses with the addition of a Cantonese linguistics course.


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APRIL 26, 2023

ASUC Senator Stephanie Wong released a statement last week urging the UC Berkeley community to address the alleged lack of support for the Cantonese language on campus.

Wong introduced the statement through Cal for Cantonese, a group of grassroots organizers looking to advocate for Cantonese language education on campus.

“We see that this university isn’t investing enough in Cantonese nor paying enough attention to the language,” Wong alleged. “So we’re here to change that.”

Wong noted that inspiration for the movement came after noticing that many campus janitors and other staff speak Cantonese and experience language barriers. The topic was further brought to her attention when a staff member at the Berkeley Food Pantry noticed that many customers spoke Cantonese and needed a language service to read flyers and communicate with pantry staff.

Jonathan Ngai, the Asian American and external relations coordinator for Wong’s office, also emphasized the importance of increased support for the language on campus.

“As someone from Hong Kong who identifies with Cantonese and speaks Cantonese, and as a broader Asian American, I thought it was a really good opportunity to promote our language, our culture and advocate for greater recognition,” Ngai said.

Wong also called for the administration to make Cantonese language resources more available to the student body, adding that the College of Letters and Science website was originally unclear as to the eligibility of Cantonese courses to fulfill the foreign language requirement until the page was updated last week.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore noted that Cantonese could always satisfy the foreign language requirement since there is no definitive list of eligible languages.

According to Gilmore, the language requirement calls for two semesters of college-level courses in a non-English language or the equivalent, which can be satisfied in a variety of ways.

“What changed recently is that we now offer at Berkeley a two-semester sequence in Cantonese, so it is now possible to complete the foreign language requirement using Berkeley courses alone, without needing any other resource,” Gilmore said in an email.

Wong noted that there are still more changes needed to develop a more robust curriculum for the Cantonese language on campus.

Cal for Cantonese is also looking to increase funding for intermediate and advanced Cantonese courses with the addition of a Cantonese linguistics course.

“The reason that we would like more funding for Cantonese is because we currently only have two sections for Cantonese language and they’re both beginner,” Wong said. “We do not have an intermediate or advanced course; there’s no curriculum for that.”

According to Wong, 60% of the Chinese Bay Area population speaks Cantonese, calling attention to a significant presence of speakers whose needs are not being met. She added that students looking to learn more about Cantonese have limited options to explore that interest.

Wong noted that she is comforted by the amount of support they have received on the initiative thus far and remains hopeful that campus will support increased funding and investment in Cantonese programs.

“The City College of San Francisco and Stanford University recently reinstated their Cantonese programs and even added more funding for them,” Wong said. “If we’re to be the number one public university in the world, we need to be on par with Stanford; we need to be competing with them in every single area, including the Cantonese language.

Contact Isabelle Nunes at 


APRIL 26, 2023