Cantonese Taking Its Place in a Changing World

TED talks, once the realm of academics and business magnates, are now well known and widely spread thanks to the Internet. But despite the level playing field the web has presented us with, there are still some players excluded from the game – because of the language barrier. Non-English speakers in many cases miss out on the wisdom and innovation spread through TED talks. One of the most obvious exclusions is China, a country with a booming population but a relatively low percentage of English speakers. All that is about to change, now with the development of TEDx Kowloon, a new Cantonese-language version of the TED conference.

While talks have been made in a range of languages at other TED events, TEDx Kowloon will be the first entirely Cantonese event. It’s a landmark development which signifies the growing importance of many Chinese thinkers, designers and engineers as they shape the world we all live in. The conference will also give the opportunity to develop talks which are more focused around local issues and allow non-English speakers to be inspired by the innovations happening right under their noses.

In other Cantonese news, Cantonese opera is experiencing a resurgence, and greater interest from tourists. ‘Cantopera’ is being promoted strongly by tourism officials in Hong Kong as an attempt to give visitors a memorable experience of Cantonese language and local culture. Cantopera is already listed on UNESCO’s list of Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The new show being put together by the Chinese Artists Association has a few key goals – to help bring in more tourists and make the local opera more accessible to people who are unfamiliar with the art form, and to generate funds which will help further develop the local arts. The programme is intended to introduce the absolute basics of the opera to a foreign audience, along with English subtitles, so visitors can get a feel for the basics of the art form and go on the enjoy more complex works.

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