Beyond straightforward communication, Wong thinks using Kongish helps to develop intimacy. For instance, he says his students respond more enthusiastically to jokes he makes in Kongish than equivalent ones in English.
Sonia Lee Chi-tung, a year one student studying at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University frequently uses Kongish with friends in her daily life. She shows Varsity her text conversation with her roommate:
“Nei ting yat faan ng faan hall ah bb?”
(Dear, are you coming back to hostel tonight?)
“Farn ah. Hui yuen colleague uk kei then farn lai.”
(Yes, I will come back after visiting my colleagues’ home.)
“Nei gei dim farn lai ah?”
(What time would you come back?)
“8-9 dim la I think.”
(8 to 9 o’clock I think.)
Lee says she sometimes feels proud to use Kongish because decoding it requires multiple skills. “You notice that you can only communicate with this group of people because everyone speaks the same language. As you belong to the same group, you know they can understand what you type,” Lee explains.
Lee Siu-lun, a senior lecturer of the Yale-China Chinese Language Centre at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, also thinks languages can help to form and maintain different communities.
“[Language] draws the boundary of the community. If you cannot understand, you do not belong to this group. Those who understand can communicate with each other,” Lee explains.
That is why Pedro Lok Wai-yi, another founder of Kongish Daily and a lecturer in the School of Arts and Humanities at Tung Wah College, thinks people who frequently use Kongish establish bonds with others who do the same, especially when they are discussing local events. For example, the passage at the beginning of this article refers to a sit-in by doctors working in public hospitals who protested for the dignity of their profession by demanding their pay rises be linked to civil service increments. Full understanding of the passage requires a knowledge of English, Cantonese and local Hong Kong news.
However, another co-founder of Kongish Daily, Alfred Jones Tsang, who is an instructor at the Centre for Language Education at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says Kongish also has fans outside of Hong Kong people. Tsang says Singaporeans, Malaysians and even people whose first language is English and who are learning Chinese from watching TVB programmes have also liked their Facebook page. This means that, at the most basic level, all that is required is knowledge of English and Cantonese to enjoy the posts on Kongish Daily. Tsang thinks those who leave negative comments on their page might not understand the underlying sense of humour in their posts.
Kongish cannot be used in all settings. Jeffrey Lau Wai-lun, a co-founder of Kongish Daily who works as an executive of the Inflight Sales Group (Hong Kong), has to use standard English most of the time at work. But he tries to be more relaxed in informal conversation. For instance, he inserts some Chinese colloquial words into his daily conversations with his colleagues like “you play me meh?” or “you hand in at five or I kill you.”
Lau says the community might sometimes put pressure on people who use a language that does not match their identity or position. For example, a teacher who speaks informal English instead of standard English would be questioned. “The environment forces you to speak a language that is different from the one you would voluntarily use,” Lau explains.
While Kongish may not be accepted in all situations, Kongish Daily co-founder Nick Wong Chun thinks, from his observations of the Facebook page, that people have become more accepting of it. Some followers have enthusiastically embraced the community of Kongish speakers and find camaraderie and validation in it.
As the Kongish Daily page proclaims: “Kongish hai more creative, more flexible, and more functional ge variety”. For Wong, Kongish creates community and provides another avenue for people to articulate their Hong Kong identity.
Edited by Sherry Tsui