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Chinese Language Day


The United Nations’ Chinese Language Day is observed every April 20th.  Its objective is to celebrate multiculturalism and linguistic diversity around the world. 

Chinese languages represent the richness and diversity of Chinese culture.  Embracing Chinese languages into the fabric of Canadian society is important – more now than ever before – to combat the growing racism and isolation experienced by the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPSEU President Smokey Thomas continues to be saddened by ongoing reports of selective xenophobia targeting Asian communities, and in particular, the Chinese community. 

“Our compassion and our humanity are what brings us all together especially during these times of uncertainty and hardship.  We must rise above all of the hate and negativity if we are going to get through these difficult times unscathed” he said.

As one of the oldest languages in the world, Chinese has existed for thousands of years and was formed from the Sino-Tibetan language family.  Complex in nature, the origins of when it separated itself from this family remain unknown. 

Today, it consists of hundreds of local language varieties that are not mutually intelligible.  The varieties are typically classified into the following groups:


Spoken in northern and southwestern China and has by far the most speakers. This group includes the Beijing dialect which forms the basis for Standard Chinese.


These varieties are spoken in Shanghai, most of Zhejiang and the southern parts of Jiangsu and Anhui.  The group comprises of hundreds of distinct spoken forms, many of which are not mutually intelligible.


These varieties originated in the mountainous terrain of Fujian and eastern Guangdong, and form the only branch of Chinese that cannot be directly derived from Middle Chinese.  It is also the most diverse. 


These varieties are spoken in Hunan and southern Hubei. 


These varieties are spoken in Jiangxi and neighbouring areas.


Whose name means “guest families” and refers to a group of Han Chinese living in the hills of northeastern Guangdong, southwestern Fujian and many other parts of southern China, as well as Taiwan and parts of Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.


These varieties are spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macau.  Cantonese is by far the most commonly spoken variety and originates from the city of Guangzhou (historically called “Canton”), which is also the native language of the majority in Hong Kong and Macau.

The origins of the Chinese language are credited to Cangjie, who today, remains an important figure from ancient China.  Cangjie is believed to be the inventor of Chinese characters when the Yellow Emperor first began his reign around 2698 BCE. 

Chinese has been one of the six official languages of the UN since 1946. 

Let’s celebrate Chinese culture and languages and be mindful that our Chinese Canadian community is facing a difficult time during the COVID-19 crisis.  OPSEU will not tolerate racism.  We will stand together with the community today, tomorrow and always.

President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Vice President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida