The Macanese “Chapado” – Video
The lost language of the Macanese.
Between the 16th and 20th centuries, the Macanese “Chapado” or patua played an important role in Macau’s social and commercial development. It was the main language of communication among Macau’s residents, used in business and in the home. Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, Macanese continued to be spoken as the mother tongue of several thousand of people in Macau, Hong Kong and other countries in Southeast Asia. Some writers even suggest that “Macanese speakers were consciously using the language in opposition to the standard Portuguese of the metropolitan administration” in both Macau, whose official language was Portuguese, and in Hong Kong where the predominant language was English. (1)
Recently, the preservation of the Macanese patua has been a goal of several groups in Macau and other countries where Portuguese descendents from Asia now live. In 2009 UNESCO classified the patua as a ”critically endangered language” and estimated that there were only 50 speakers of the dialect in the year 2000. There are indications, however, that this estimate is low. Surveys conducted among Macanese in 12 countries in 2012 and 2013 found that there were at least 500 speakers identified.
The language has been nicknamed Dóci Língu di Macau (“Sweet Language of Macau”) and Doci Papiaçam (“sweet speech”) by poets. The late Macanese poet José dos Santos Ferreira even chose the “sweet language” as his creative medium. In 21st century Macau, theatre groups, artists, and film makers, continue to keep the language alive for future generations.
What Does Macanese “Chapado” Sound Like ? And How Did the Language Evolve ?
In 2007 Armando “Pinky” da Silva, an Emeritus Professor of Cultural Geography and a noted curator of “Chapado”, was interviewed on the historic differences between the patua as it was spoken in Macau and Hong Kong. (2) An excerpt from that interview is presented below. A summary translation in English follows.
“My name is Armando da Silva. I am an Emeritus Professor of Cultural Geology at Towson University in Baltimore Maryland. My relatives always called me “Pinky” because I was born with rosy cheeks and light reddish hair.
The Macaista (Macanese) of Hong Kong was very different from the dialect spoken in Macau. Macau Macanese has more Malaysian words, and is noted by the prevalence of Portuguese sounds, such as “shi”.
Here are some differences. People from Macau pronounce the Macanese patuo as “shapado” – the “s” sounding more like Portuguese. In Hong Kong it was different. The Macanese always pronounced the word as “chapado” emphasizing the hard “c”.
My primary language growing up was the Hong Kong “chapado”. My second language was Cantonese, but that language was of rural and southern China, the dialect spoken in the markets and on the streets – a conversational Cantonese. My third language was English, which I used in school.
The majority of the Macanese in Hong Kong spoke all three languages, but pronounced the “chapado” differently than our relatives in Macau. Hong Kong Macanese used the heavier accented patua because it was a mix of Portuguese, Cantonese and English.
These are my parents (holding up a picture). My father was of German descent, with the family name “Kaiser”. My mother (nee Espinosa) was a Portuguese from Macau, whose features you can see are typically Macaista.
My friend Dr. Luis Baptista, the director of the Department of Geography at the California Academy of Sciences, suggests that the Macau and Hong Kong patuas originated from Malacca and Ceylon. He employed a “sonogram” to measure the wave lengths of native speakers of each dialect to determine their origins, and concluded that the Macanese “chapado” as spoken in Macau and Hong Kong is actually a distinct language unto itself with far reaching roots throughout Asia.
1 Information on the Macanese “chapado” was derived from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macanese_language
2 Dr. da Silva’s interview was produced by Nuno Prata da Cruz (Lusitano Club of California) and shown at the 2007 Macau Encontro. In a letter Da Silva adds: “So we spoke the old language of Mato-Mouro, the enclave of the Macanese of Hong Kong at (the) mid-levels (on) Hong Kong Island.”