Speak Mandarin, not Cantonese, even in Macau

« previous post | next post »

Eason Chan rebukes Chinese fans demanding he speak Mandarin at Macau concert

'I love speaking whatever way and language I want,' says Chan

By Keoni Everington, Taiwan News (2023/10/20)

Well, it looks as though we are having a clash of languages — Mandarin vs. Cantonese — right in the heartland of Cantonese.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hong Kong singer Eason Chan (陳奕迅) rebuffed demands by Chinese fans to speak Mandarin instead of Cantonese at a concert in Macau.

On Oct. 13, Chan kicked off his "Fear and Dreams" concert tour in Macau. As is often the case with his concerts, Chan began to casually chat in Cantonese with the audience between songs.

During the show, several Chinese audience members started to shout and boo. They repeatedly interrupted him demanding that he "Speak Mandarin!"

At one point, Chan paused and glared sideways at the audience in silence. He then smiled and uttered a greeting in Thai before switching to English to say, "I love speaking whatever way and language I want," sparking applause and cheers from the audience.

Chan then took the opportunity to educate the fans on courtesy by saying in Mandarin, "You could say, 'Could you please speak Mandarin,' that would sound better." He said that when someone demands he "Speak Mandarin," it's not that he's unable to speak the language, but he is reluctant because of how the request was made.

He said the preferable way to ask would be to add a "thank you, please, or could you" to the question. Breaking into a combination of Engish and Mandarin, Chan said "No, don't get me wrong. If someone says, 'Speak English!' to me, I just say 'Shut up!' If you don't understand, that's fine."

Chan began to speak in Cantonese again and used the late British singer David Bowie as an example. "If David Bowie came to perform, would you also ask him to speak Mandarin or Cantonese?" Out of frustration at the situation, Chan said "It's strange, it really is!"

After venting his frustration, Chan said that he should put his earpiece back in and focus on performing rather than lecturing. After the incident, "Eason Chan was asked to speak Mandarin during his Macau concert" became the top trending search topic on Weibo on Oct. 14, which resulted in heated discussions among netizens.

In a related discussion thread on Weibo, some netizens asked, "Cantonese is also a language of China, why can't it be spoken?" Many netizens said that Chan spoke very well and argued that "you have to be polite while watching a concert," Others emphasized that Cantonese is the official language of Hong Kong and Macao, and "it is natural to speak Cantonese" in those places.

The final paragraph is especially telling.

The article includes a video of Chan at the concert speaking various languages (including Thai and English), with the crowd loving and hating it.

Why should anyone expect a native Cantonese speaker to speak Mandarin in Macau?

AntC:  "I'm surprised he can 'get away' with speaking Cantonese anywhere in a public concert."


Selected readings

[Thanks to AntC]


  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 31, 2023 @ 6:12 pm

    Speak Patua! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macanese_Patois

  2. Chas Belov said,

    October 31, 2023 @ 9:52 pm

    Thinking of the song The Union of East Meets West by Danny Chan line "Let's all speak Mandarin." The song is trilingual Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. YouTube Music says the song is from 1985 but Wikipedia says it's from 1991.

  3. The Dark Avenger said,

    October 31, 2023 @ 10:07 pm

    Reminds me of the story about some WWII emigres who were at a party, and two Hungarians started chattering in their language. One of their fellow participants rebuked them, saying, “Hey guys, this is America. Speak German!”

  4. AntC said,

    November 1, 2023 @ 2:10 am

    @JWB, I think that ship has sailed:

    UNESCO’s Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger classifies Patua as a "critically endangered" and places the number of speakers at 50 as of 2000.

    The first time I visited Macau — around 1989, so still a Portuguese Protectorate — I tried a 'bom dia' at the passport counter. Got a very bemused grin in reply.

  5. Joshua K. said,

    November 1, 2023 @ 10:43 pm

    @AntC: I don't understand. Is "bom dia" not standard Portuguese for "good day," as distinct from just being Patua?

  6. W said,

    November 2, 2023 @ 12:21 am

    The same singer, who grew up in the UK thanks to preferential policies for colonial bureaucrats, also supported Xinjiang's cotton labor camp. Sometimes language politics doesn't align with personal politics.

  7. Vampyricon said,

    November 10, 2023 @ 12:48 pm

    I'd say 茄醬 for tomato sauce, especially the type that goes on pasta.

RSS feed for comments on this post