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Saving Macau’s Dying Language


Meet Aida de Jesus. She’s 103 years old. Aida is from Macau, a Chinese city that was formerly colonized by Portugal for 400 years. She and her daughter, Sonia, are among the few people who still speak Patuá, a critically endangered language that is unique to Macau. Here’s a local music video with subtitles in four languages: Patuá, Cantonese, Portuguese, and English. You can see how Patuá mixes the languages of places along the Portuguese trade route in the 16th century. Aida and Sonia are Macau locals of mixed Portuguese-Chinese ancestry. They are the Macanese, and they make up less than 1 percent of a city that is over 90 percent Chinese. To understand Aida’s community, we first have to understand her city, Macau, which is an hour’s ferry ride away from Hong Kong. It has rapidly developed over the last few decades and is now known as the world’s largest casino town, raking in five times as much money as Las Vegas. This is thanks, in part, to the Portuguese legalizing gambling in the 1800s. So when Portugal returned Macau to China 20 years ago, it became the only place in the country where gambling was legal. Many Portuguese left after World War II and an anti-Portuguese riot in the ’60s, but you can still spot signs of Portuguese influence all over the city. Chinese and Portuguese are the official languages, and colonial buildings are protected Unesco heritage sites. And just outside the city center is Aida and Sonia’s traditional Macanese restaurant. Unesco calls Macau the “home of the first ‘fusion food,’” and also recognizes the Macanese language, Patuá, as a dying language, with only 50 speakers left. Although there are only 4,000 Macanese left in Macau, one study suggests there could be over 1.5 million of them around the world. The diaspora is even invited to visit Macau every three years. But those who remain in Macau feel they have to fight to preserve their culture and identity. They have been in Macau for generations, but they are often mistaken for foreigners in their own land. That’s Sergio Perez, a 39-year-old Macanese filmmaker who made the music video you saw earlier. That music video features an amateur theater troupe that’s trying to preserve the language by staging a Patuá play every year. Sonia, who co-founded the theater troupe in the ’90s, says she’ll keep it going. Thanks for watching. If you like this video, we have more stories about culture and identity. Check them out, and subscribe to Goldthread.

59 Replies to “Saving Macau’s Dying Language”

  • ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🖤
    I love goldthread
    I came here for Stephanie’s giveaway but I now love it

  • Macau is so beautiful
    Really nice to see those 2 ladies to still keep up with their language even though it's fading away .

  • She doesn't even look like she's 103 years old, and its so cute that she still gets her nails done 💅.Long live mama biss and her daughter for saving Patua! Great story once again Goldthread! ❤️

  • What an incredible story about a place I know so little about. Really love this type of content. Keep up the good work!

  • I lived in Macau for over a year and one of my best friends there was Macanese. He often talked about how he felt his generation will be the last true generation of Macanese people. It is a shame to see a culture shrink like this, but I am happy to see so many endeavors to preserve this unique heritage while it is still living!

    Great video. Thank you for producing it 🙂

  • She don’t even look 103. (Ok imma stop spamming now but I just can’t stop watching your videos, I love learning new things about different places around the world and different people around the world.)

  • Please I'm sorry about my late presence .. i had my exams .. i never saw apple products .. help me please ..
    Macau is beautiful…

  • Bless her heart she yearns to be young. Old people like that usually seek youthfulness and preserve their health in a way. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist but I can figure that out.

  • I'm half-Macanese, born in Hong Kong pre-handover and it's a really confusing identity and hard to find much info about it/my identity reflected. My grandparents on my mum's side both spoke Patois. Thanks for this video 💖

  • For me as a Brazilian the writen language is something like 80%, intelligible pronunciation not so much. and that's awesome…

  • There seems to me that a Ethno-cultural/ethnonational revivalism going on around the world. Some beign manifested in good ways like ^^ others maybe not so much lol. But its still good to see.

  • You could see that Han Chinese guy in the background smoking a cigarette but also listening in on their interview.

  • "In the 60s there was a Anti Portuguese riot"?. Didn't they try to had it back in 1973 and the Chinese peaple refused?

  • The mother looks 👀 more Chinese than mixed-race. I guess the Portuguese element in her family has been watered down through the generations.

  • Macau is a beautify territory. I was there few months ago 😁can't wait to go back again! Definitely worth visiting. I love to travel; love to take pics and videos and share my experience😁

  • 😊 Am European Portuguese! / Sou Europeu Português!

    Crossin over to see culture of Macau! / Atravessando pr'a ver a cultura de Macau!

    May Macaus Cantonese dying Language of the Speakers Carry on even if it's not the right form of Portuguese it's Portuguese Either way! / Que a Linguagem de Macaus Cantunêses e dos Falantes de Macau continua mesmo sendo que não seja a verdadeira forma de Português ainda é Português de qualquer forma! 😊

  • Don't worry lady, you definitely don't look 103, you seem to be doing mighty fine for your age!

  • I'm one of the few Macaenses. When I was in grade school, I was pushed to learn English/French/Cantonese/Portuguese/Patua. School was brutal but now I understand why I was push so hard. Living in Macau was a very strange environment. My daddy was from Hong Kong. But he Spoke French/Portuguese. My mommy was Portuguese she spoke English/Cantonese/patua. My godfather and godmother both were Portuguese, but they spoke Cantonese. Come to think of it that is one damn strange childhood. I didn't realize until I moved to the USA. Now I feel a little home sick🙄

  • I have a quarter of Macanese blood because I had a locally born and raised Macanese grandma. As i was born in Hong Kong, we usually just speak Cantonese and English but I still learn Portuguese as a third language. I wish i could speak patuá in order to save this language.

  • I hope the Macanese Patois language can be preserved. The best way to do it would be to record writing and speech of people who still know the language, and then make mandatory Patois classes in every school in Macau. That's what they did in Cornwall to revive the Cornish language.

  • As a supporter of the Irish language, I cannot help but ask, why didn't you request these native speakers of Patuá to speak their own language so that we could all hear it and it would be partially preserved in your video? I can only assume that you didn't do that because you are more concerned about making money (i.e. reaching a bigger crowd) by reporting about these people rather than trying to save their language. That is a real pity.

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