I read an interesting report in the New York Times that could equally apply to the UK Chinese community.
Most bbcs are descended from a generation that migrated from Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s, and many Chinatowns around the world were founded by migrants from Cantonese-speaking regions of South China as well as Hong Kong. Cantonese can therefore be regarded as the main language of the world's dispersed Chinese population.
But all that could be about to change as Chinese migration is now predominantly made up of Mandarin speakers and they naturally gravitate towards existing Chinese community hubs rather than generating their own. So bit by bit, Chinatowns around the world are becoming Mandarin-ized. This effect is already well under way in London's Chinatown as I'm sure many readers will have noticed.
For those of us who are Cantonese Chinese, there is a real and strange prospect of going to Chinatown one day and not understanding what half the Chinese people there are saying! Weird, huh?
Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tend to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects.
“I can’t even order food on East Broadway,” said Jan Lee, 44, a furniture designer who has lived all his life in Chinatown and speaks Cantonese. “They don’t speak English; I don’t speak Mandarin. I’m just as lost as everyone else.”
Story: New York Times
Related: Memories fading, places changing