Cultural arrogance is not acceptable

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2002, 12:00am

I refer to the letter by Nicholas Shearman (South China Morning Post, June 17) regarding the 'poor' language standards of police stationed on Lamma.

Since moving to Hong Kong seven months ago, I have noticed that many native English speakers seem to assume everyone in Hong Kong must speak English.

Among the reasons given are that:

We are supposed to be a world-class city attracting tourists.

We need English for business purposes.

Students must have a good command of English if they want to get into universities.

These are good reasons, however, other factors must be considered in the language debate:

Hong Kong is a city in China.

Its population is mainly Chinese and the mother tongue of the majority of people is Cantonese.

Most Hong Kong people have little contact with foreigners, so they do not need English.

Instead of expecting most Hong Kong Chinese to learn English, the expectation should be for foreigners to learn Cantonese.

New migrants in the US, Canada and all European countries including the UK, are expected to learn the language of their new home and adjust to their cultural environment.

Why is it then, that many 'gweilos' expect the Hong Kong Chinese population to adjust to the way of life adopted by English-speaking countries? I accept that Hong Kong has been shaped by the British and it is unique. However, the cultural arrogance displayed by some Westerners makes me very angry.

I am German and am the only member of my family who speaks English. I admit that some may feel that after less than a year of living here, I am not qualified to discuss Hong Kong ways. However, I would be interested to hear what other readers have to say about this subject.


Kwun Tong