Employers rate Putonghua skill high in survey

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 December, 2008, 12:00am

Employees must improve their Putonghua proficiency if they wanted to keep their jobs through the financial downturn, Polytechnic University professor Chan Shui-duen has advised.

A survey by the university found more than 85 per cent of employers in Hong Kong expected their staff, especially those at junior levels, to improve their Putonghua speaking and listening skills.

Slightly less than half of the respondents listed Putonghua proficiency as one of the criteria for promoting staff, and most said they would require some proof of Putonghua capability in job applications.

It was carried out by the management and executive development centre of the university's department of Chinese and bilingual studies.

'The survey reflects that employers highly value Putonghua skills among their staff and want them to have a high skill level,' Edna Choi, assistant manager of the centre, said. English proficiency had for long been preferred to Chinese language skills for Hong Kong employees, but Ms Choi said this trend had changed.

'There was less than a 10 per cent difference between the proportion of managers who rated Putonghua as important, and those who rated English as important.'

Conducted in September and October, the survey interviewed 197 chief executives, directors and heads of human resources departments from the manufacturing, insurance, hotels and other sectors.

Since 1994, the centre has been developing the Putonghua Shuiping Kaoshi, a Putonghua-language proficiency test designed specifically for assessing Hong Kong people's speaking and listening capabilities.

The test was modelled on similar assessment tools adopted on the mainland, classifying the language ability of each candidate into three 'grades' and six 'rankings', with A1 being the highest attainable level and C2 the lowest. Two more elementary levels were introduced later.

Professor Chan said the test had been validated by the State Language Commission, and those who passed were recognised by the commission.

She said the government had not been as active in promoting Putonghua in the workplace as it had been in launching the Workplace English Campaign in 2000. 'There is a definite need for the government to launch similar activities and be more proactive in promoting proficiency in Putonghua among employees,' Professor Chan said.