PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:03pm


Sometimes you can bend the rules

I refer to the letter by Tricia Cheong ('View that native English-speaking teachers are better is very misguided', July 31).

Granted, native English-speaking teachers are not necessarily better than their local counterparts, but there is a need for some local teachers to learn from their foreign colleagues.

These local teachers tend to sideline the importance of authentic usage in preference for grammatical accuracy. This pedantic insistence on correct English does more harm than good to students.

In contrast, native English-speaking teachers tend to give more prominence to real language, the variations of grammar and vocabulary as they occur in real communication under different circumstances.

Grammar is not uniform, but varies according to different contexts of use.

Native speakers make significant linguistic adjustments as they shift from casual, spontaneous conversation to situations where more formal language is required.

For instance, many 'grammatical errors' local teachers normally frown upon are in fact totally acceptable in a conversational exchange in an informal setting among native English speakers.

It is only when greater formality is required that grammatical accuracy is emphasised.

While an awareness of the most basic grammatical rules is important, it is necessary to come to the realisation that authentic English usage carries far more weight.

Ho Yun-sum, Yuen Long

Reasons for owning guns in the US

I would like to thank Alex Lo for his commentary on Americans' right to bear arms ('Liberty doesn't flow out of a gun barrel', July 25).

The accuracy of his insightful analysis of the American psyche surprises me.

It's true that a great many law-abiding Americans own firearms and they simultaneously have a distrust of political institutions. However, the right to bear arms shouldn't be linked with the actions of a disturbed individual. Most gun owners in the United States are not involved in criminal activities of any sort.

Deranged individuals will often act out in violence whether it is with explosives, as the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski did, or in a knife-wielding rampage as one individual did here in Hong Kong shortly after I arrived two years ago.

There are a myriad of reasons people in the US choose to be gun owners; many are women who are interested in self-defence.

I have met people from across the political spectrum who own firearms. You can't attribute it to simply the ideology of the right or left.

Many Americans' distrust of the political process comes from a long heritage of individual liberty that is slowly being eroded through the political process and the very institutions that were set up to protect liberty. I caution Lo on attributing this individual right to a sort of romantic notion of freedom.

In 2008, Stephen P. Halbrook, a lawyer who argued in favour of the second amendment as an individual right in front of the US Supreme Court, wrote a book titled The Founders' Second Amendment.

In this book he investigates, through correspondence, diaries and newspaper accounts, why the American founding fathers saw the right to bear arms as a key ingredient in establishing a lasting free society.

It is recommended reading for anyone who is curious about the Americans' fascination with their guns.

As for establishing democracy through foreign military adventures, I suspect more than just a few Americans would agree with Lo.

Andrew Strain, Quarry Bay

Glossing over the crimes of Marcos

It is incredible for Philippine President Benigno Aquino to claim that former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's 10 years in power 'crippled Philippine society' ('Arroyo out on bail after eight months in detention', July 26).

It is as though he has completely glossed over the longer period when Ferdinand Marcos not only crippled but practically killed his nation's economy before Mrs Arroyo came on the scene.

Like too many Filipinos (especially the younger generation famously known for its short attention span) who didn't experience the murderous era of Marcos' martial law, Mr Aquino seems to display a kind of amnesia over what the Marcoses did to their country.

Either that or he is like his late pious mother Cory whose lame Christian belief of 'forgive and forget' allowed the old scoundrels back into power.

Amazingly, this president seems to have forgotten his father's assassination, which is what brought the Marcos regime down.

That atrocity, plus the near total destruction of the middle class brought on by the massive greed and venality of the Marcos' clan and cronies, is what has long kept the Philippines a laggard in a region of prosperous nations.

Isabel Escoda, Lantau

Helpers must pay before starting work

I refer to the article on domestic helpers' debts ('Most helpers in debt, charity's surveys find', July 31).

I was surprised to see that no mention was made of what is well known to be a major reason for our domestic helpers getting into financial difficulties.

This is the enormous monetary outlay that they have to make both in their home country and when they have found a position here, and this is even before they start work.

I will not go into the grey areas of where the money goes to.

Suffice it to say that many of them go into debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

This problem certainly applies to helpers from Indonesia. I am not sure about those helpers who are from other countries.

One fully appreciates that only so much can be included in one article, but it would be interesting to read a follow-up report on this very important topic.

John Wilson, Yau Ma Tei

Elderly put off earning a meagre living

Hong Kong's Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, has risen.

The SAR now faces a serious wealth gap problem which will not be easy to solve.

Government schemes to help people from the grass roots have failed to improve the situation. They have mostly been short-term measures and these sweeteners do not touch the core of the problem. Long-lasting and practical measures are needed.

One area where something could be done is with regard to hawkers. Some elderly people want to add to their meagre income by setting up stalls. However, they face heavy restrictions and this puts them off.

They are left to rely on the old age allowance as their only source of income and this makes them even poorer. Similarly, street performers face restrictions when they try to earn a living through busking.

The government should relax the rules governing both groups of people. This would benefit the individuals and society as a whole. It would also help the economy as street artists are popular with tourists.

This is better than giving out short-term sweeteners. It is helping people to help themselves.

Daniel Hui Yin-hang, Sha Tin

Beijing's hard line is not helpful

When Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci arrived in Macau in 1582, he could hardly have envisioned the Middle Kingdom under the Chinese Communist Party four centuries later.

Neither could he have imagined the church under the control of the Catholic Patriotic Association. Although more than six decades have passed since the revolution in 1949, tensions between the Vatican and the central government have never been worse. Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, of Shanghai, announced his resignation from this association and disappeared [now reportedly in confinement in a seminary].

A Wall Street Journal editorial asked why the Communist Party antagonised Catholics and people of other denominations who want to reach a compromise with Beijing 'as long as the primacy of priests in religious matters is respected'.

This highlights China's dismal human rights record. Bishop Ma did not pose a threat to the State Administration for Religious Affairs. His decision to serve 'only one master' is indicative of his genuine commitment and moral conviction. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, is concerned for his well-being. He is not alone.

Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US