HK people - silly attitude towards language

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 1994, 12:00am

I COULD not agree more with Mr Benjamin Tang of Kowloon, who expressed his frustration at Hong Kong people's attitude toward Chinese persons who prefer to communicate in English (South China Morning Post, July 27).

I am Chinese by descent and my native tongue is the Fukienese dialect, but I grew up in Malaysia where I received a Western-style education.

I have to speak in English mainly because I spend most of my working day dealing with people who aren't Chinese and also because most Hong Kong people don't speak Putonghua, which I speak fluently.

I am surprised by the attitude of Hong Kong people who don't consider any dialect but Cantonese to be Chinese (Chung Man). This attitude is obviously silly because the only language that can be properly described as Chinese is Putonghua.

So between me and most Hong Kong people, I am definitely more Chinese. I find it frustrating that, in spite of over 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong people have barely mastered the language of the people who have sheltered them from the turmoils of China in the 20th century.

What I find even more heart-breaking is that the youngsters can barely utter a word in English.

You only have to drop by a McDonald's restaurant and try ordering in English to a bright-eyed teenager to discover the depths to which the English standard in Hong Kong has sunk. Like Mr Tang, I am proud of my Chinese background. But if Hong Kong people are to preserve their unique identity after 1997, they have to be more open-minded towards non-Chinese cultures and ways of thinking.

They also have to realise that Hong Kong's best chance of preserving its prosperity is to remain a cosmopolitan city where the people can also speak in a tongue other than Cantonese.