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Hong Kong needs better English to be a truly global city

  • Author:naky
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2015-07-01
On the first day of my recent trip to Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post had a front-page story bemoaning the neglect of English.
While Hong Kong was officially bilingual, local ministers were increasingly giving speeches and blogging in Chinese without providing an English translation, the paper said.
It is not just officials abandoning English. There are frequent complaints that Hong Kong generally has lost its ability to communicate in the language.
This was my third visit to Hong Kong in a year, and I too have been struck by how many people struggle to speak English. It is a contrast with everywhere else I have travelled in recent years.
I have written before about how hard it is to practise European languages because people insist on replying in English.
Because English has Germanic and Romance roots, with plenty of Greek words, it is, of course, far easier for Europeans to learn English than it is for Chinese speakers.
But it is not just in Europe that people appear to speak better English. Singaporeans seemed, when I went there last year, to speak English more fluently — and with a playfulness and joy that I missed in Hong Kong.
In Shanghai, which I visited in 2009, I was struck by the number of people who spoke excellent English. Some had been to university in English-speaking countries, but others had just worked hard on the language at home.
More extensive surveys have reached the same conclusion. The EF English Proficiency Index, which analysed test data from 750,000 adults in 63 countries, found that Hong Kong was well behind Malaysia and Singapore. The survey found that South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan were all ahead of Hong Kong in English.
For the first time ever, the survey said, Shanghai had overtaken Hong Kong in English proficiency.
Answering a question in the Legislative Council in December on how this had happened, Eddie Ng, Hong Kong’s education secretary, said the EF index was based on the responses of self-selected online participants and that more objective tests, both internal and external, showed that Hong Kong’s English was either steady or slightly improving.