Call for HK revolution in English teaching

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2011, 12:00am


English should be taught by teachers who speak it as a second language and not by native English speakers, according to a Hong Kong professor.

Andy Kirkpatrick, chair professor of English as a professional language at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said multilingual teachers who speak both Cantonese and English provide the ideal model for teaching the language in the city.

He said most English speakers in Hong Kong are multilingual 'and therefore the benchmark for children should come from successful multilinguals'.

Kirkpatrick chairs the organising committee for the fourth International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca, to be held in Hong Kong - the first outside Europe. The conference analyses the development and role of English as a global language in Europe and Asia.

Nearly 90 per cent of English teachers in Hong Kong schools are native speakers of Cantonese who have learnt English. They have traditionally been criticised as having poor English skills, but Kirkpatrick argues they provide the right model for teaching it because they have the same language background as local children.

He said: 'What we're trying to promote is that multilinguals start feeling proud about being multilingual, rather than being embarrassed that they are not as good as native English speakers.'

Kirkpatrick wants to see Hong Kong children learn to speak English in a way that is easily understood anywhere in the world, rather than worrying about perfect pronunciation. He said it was important to be understood internationally, not to sound like a native English speaker.