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Macanese community sets high value on bilingualism and political intervention

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image Miguel Senna Fernandes, Rita Santos and J.L. Sales Marques participated in the debate

Keeping both languages alive and intervening more in political matters are important concerns for the Macanese community. These and other opinions were pronounced during the two days of the colloquium, “Macanese, a collective look on a community”, organized by the Macanese Association (ADM) over the weekend.
During the session dedicated to economic issues, António Monteiro argued for the more active affirmation of the community through stronger intervention. He regretted that in the past there had been “no serious insistence on Chinese education.” President of the Institute of European Studies of Macau, José Luis de Sales, remarked that “There has been a process of ‘proletarianization’ among the Macanese youth. Our children are in a worse situation than we were. This is worrying”, he stressed. Rita Santos, Deputy Secretary General of the Permanent Secretariat of the Macau Forum expressed the opinion that “the full command of various languages, namely Chinese and Portuguese” can be the key to success in the professional life of the Macanese. “I felt that if we don’t adapt ourselves to the study of the Chinese language, we may not be able to keep up with the evolution.” Jorge Valente showed himself confident as to the ability of Portuguese speakers to learn Chinese. Also André Ritchie defended bilingualism as the strong point in business matters: “Portuguese has good conditions to be a business language and our Chinese needs to become more competitive. We have to be professionals and fully bilingual to survive.” During the session dedicated to identity, emphasis was given more on the Portuguese language, which some of the participants believed to be vanishing. “In many Macanese families Chinese is becoming more dominant where it used to be Portuguese”, Anabela Ritchie remarked. She averted that “Portuguese is a patrimonial legacy that we have to preserve.” The former teacher and final president of the Legislative Assembly before the Handover added: “There are perspectives for the Portuguese language because the People’s Republic of China is opening them. If the Macanese used to be a bridge between the community from China and Portugal, they can now be one for the PRC and the Portuguese speaking countries.” Ms Santos reminded delegates that there are more and more Chinese from mainland China studying Portuguese in Macau and warned: “We have to be cautious, because some day we will be surpassed by them.”
As to the discussed role of the Macanese community in politics, Fernando Gomes believed it was good that the community was seeking its way in politics. This, however, must be done together with the Chinese community. “To create an own (electoral) list doesn’t make sense. How many are we - around 750?” he asked. Lawmaker Pereira Coutinho, who also participated in the discussion, was mentioned as a good example on “how it’s possible to have a political strategy to conquer the Chinese electors.” He in turn spoke of a “discriminative attitude” in the public administration towards candidates with Portuguese names.
All in all, ADM president Miguel de Senna Fernandes was very satisfied with the result of the colloquium: “It surpassed all our expectations.”

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