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The Unique Language of Hong Kong

For over 100 years, Hong Kong has had two official languages: Cantonese and English. While most people there speak Cantonese as their first language, you'll also hear many English words.

In Hong Kong, some folks mix both languages, and this is called "Kongish." Kongish has its own special words and phrases that you won't hear from English speakers elsewhere. However, people from Hong Kong who now live in other countries might still use these words.

Many of these unique words and phrases come from translating Cantonese to English directly. For instance, "add oil" doesn't relate to cars or cooking; it means "keep going," "you can do it," or "cheer up." In 2018, it was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Another example is "blowing water," although this one isn't in the dictionary. It can mean making small talk or exaggerating, like saying, "That's not true, she's just blowing water."

Some other Kongish phrases might sound strange in English but have similar meanings, like "laugh die me." Even though it doesn't sound right in English, in Hong Kong, it means someone is laughing really hard at something funny.

The saying "people mountain, people sea" is also directly translated. It's used to describe a very busy place. For people in Hong Kong, Kongish isn't just a fun way to talk; it's also a way to show their identity.

Part 2: Vocabulary Words and Definitions

  1. Official: Authorized or approved by a governing authority.

  2. Visitors: People who are not from the place and are there temporarily.

  3. Exaggerating: Making something seem larger, more important, or more dramatic than it really is.

  4. Identity: Who a person is, what makes them unique.

  5. Translate: To change words from one language to another, keeping the same meaning.

  6. Dictionary: A book or online resource that explains the meanings of words.

  7. Relate: To have a connection or association with.

  8. Directly: In a straightforward or immediate way.

  9. Simplified: Made easier to understand or do.

  10. Express: To show or communicate a feeling or idea.

Part 3: Questions from the Text

  1. How long has Hong Kong had two official languages, and what are they?

  2. What is "Kongish," and why is it unique?

  3. Can you give an example of a Kongish phrase that was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018?

  4. Explain what "blowing water" means in Kongish.

  5. Why is Kongish important to people in Hong Kong?


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