Return to site

Save Cantonese @ CCSF


Students at the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) are organizing to maintain their Cantonese program, which is at risk of being cut. To help, visit or e-mail SaveCantoneseAtCCSF @

The organizers cite the following motivations for their advocacy in defense of CCSF's decades-long program:

1) Eliminating the Cantonese language program is inconsistent with CCSF values of "inclusiveness, integrity, innovation, creativity, and quality".

Community colleges were initially created to democratize American higher education by giving thousands of worthy students, who would otherwise have been excluded, an opportunity to attend higher education. As colleges remain prohibitively expensive, community colleges have increasingly become the connecting point to higher education for students. It is incredibly important to offer a diverse range of courses for these students.

Additionally, language is the most direct connection to other cultures. Being able to communicate in another language exposes us to and fosters an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. Greater understanding, in turn, promotes greater tolerance, empathy, and acceptance of others—with studies showing that children who have studied another language are more open toward and express more positive attitudes toward the culture associated with that language.

2) Defunding Cantonese courses perpetuates systemic and structural oppression and contributes to Anti-AAPI hate.

The violence we experience in our AAPI communities also includes the violence of being separated from our families and ancestral lands and heritages through language barriers imposed on us by systemic and internalized racism. This violence includes the continual disinvestment of resources from our AAPI communities ever since we have existed in the United States. Especially with the increase of Anti-AAPI hate in the San Francisco Bay Area, the decision to remove this culturally significant resource is simply a step backwards.

3) Cantonese is vital to the San Francisco community.

Chinese is spoken by 18% of the city’s population¹ (Cantonese being spoken by 70% of the Chinese-speaking population in San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward; 60% of the Chinese-speaking population in the Bay Area and 48% of the Chinese-speaking population in California)² ³.

41.1% of San Francisco citizens are speakers of a non-English language, Cantonese being the most common language. City College of San Francisco is supposed to represent our diverse community, with well over 75% of the Chinese speakers in San Francisco Unified School District using Cantonese as the home language.⁴

4) The CCSF Cantonese program has contributed to the community for over 50 years.

Cantonese classes at CCSF were established by Professor Gordon Lew in the 1960s and have since grown in popularity and demand to teach a variety of levels (Beginner-Advanced). This class has been painstakingly assembled over many years and has educated countless students about the Chinese language and culture. Many people take this Cantonese classes to serve Cantonese-speaking families in their schools and workplaces. The decision to terminate these classes starting Fall 2021 erases future chances for people of all ages to connect with their heritage and culture.

¹ San Francisco, CA for San Francisco, CA. (n.d.). Retrieved May 06, 2021, from

² Lee, G., Dr. (2021, April 7). Save Cantonese at Stanford. Retrieved May 06, 2021, from

³ S. (2021, January 30). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 06, 2021, from

⁴ Why Cantonese FIRST? (n.d.). Retrieved May 08, 2021, from