• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 9:46pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 4:27am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 4:27am

Politicians must stop abuse of English

If any proof is needed for the decline of English standards in Hong Kong, just take a look at the latest performance of DAB lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun.

I am sure MTR chief executive Jay Walder deserved all the criticism heaped on him in the legislature, but Chung could have done it with better language skills. After all, children and students may be listening. After starting his diatribe in Cantonese, the steward of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong abruptly switched to English.

"Shame! Shame on you!" he said. "You are dreaming on your office or you are not attended at your office. Answer me."

Without giving Walder a chance to respond, he concluded: "I don't think so law."

In Cantonese, we like to end a sentence with la or law for emphasis. In informal settings, we may also mix it with English words and sentences. But in the more august surroundings of the Legislative Council chamber, proper language usage - whether in Chinese or English - should be observed. Actually, Chung didn't quite say shame. It sounded more like: "Shave! Shave on you!"

Walder is almost bald. Was Chung demanding that he shave off everything? Who knows?

The legislator defended his English on radio yesterday, saying everyone speaks with an accent and even native speakers make grammatical mistakes. Not like him though. Someone helpfully sent him a message explaining what he should have said: "You've been daydreaming in your office! You've not been attentive to your work!" Quite!

Chung has no excuse for speaking English poorly. He earned his master's degree in Glasgow and an MBA in Wales. Yet there was not a hint of a Scottish or Welsh accent in his English, which sounded as if he never went overseas. You begin to suspect poor English is a requirement to be a DAB member. Just ask Gary "try my breast" Chan Hak-kan and Starry Lee Wai-king, who pronounced "infrastructure" during a reading of Letter to Hong Kong on RTHK as "yin fa struck cheung", making it sound like "fireworks hit the wall" in Cantonese.

I realise the DAB is a patriotic group. This does not mean we should abuse the English language.


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This article is now closed to comments

He probably bought his degree online... oops, they didn't have the Internet back then. Maybe a mail order degree.
I can't agree more, due to his poor English skills; the choice of words combined with his bodily gesture and tone all add up to this show of farmer-style insults. The worst thing is that Mr. Chung upon drilling by local media of general dismay at his poor English skills, he insisted that "no one can claim they speak native English, not even native speakers...." Just what kind of attitude is that, what model or example have our esteemed legislators set for our younger generations. To quote Mr. Li Ka Shing : "it's a crime to not provide good education to the younger generation".
So Mr. Chung, face up the fact, your poor English is tantamount to a crime!
Long Hair speaks English very fluently. I was shocked the first time I heard him. His English sounds much better than his Chinese. He must be a British spy.
Maybe he should have carried on using Chinese. It is always good to know where one's strengths and weaknesses are.
I've seen a steady decline in English skills in Hong Kong over the past 20 years and it is often dismissed as a natural evolution away from our colonial roots to the Mainland. That could be A reason, but not the only reason. It seems that poor English skills are no longer seen as an issue and more readily accepted by others so there is no motivation or drive for improvement. Its a bit like what is happening with "urban English" / Ebonics in the US. You can't say its "wrong" since they can understand each other but it does create a larger and larger gap between the local standard of English and more formal and "proper" English elsewhere.
He should be arrested and sentenced to compulsory English language classes until he can pronounce shame...really, SHAME on him!
Very good, couldn't agree more. Enjoyable reading as well!
Here we go again with the myth of declining English standards in Hong Kong. The fact is that the vast majority of people in Hong Kong have never spoken English well enough to have a conversation (read the research), nor do they need to. English in Hong Kong always has been a marker of the elite, and has always been relegated to a few narrow contexts of use (education and business). What people notice as a 'decline in English standards' is more likely the result of an expansion in tertiary education. Back in Hong Kong's 'glory days of wonderful English', about 5% of the population went to university. That number is up pretty significantly in the past 15-20 years (but still lags behind most other advanced countries). It's much easier for a smaller portion of Hong Kong citizens to represent what appear to be good English standards across the territory. Expanding tertiary education has only revealed what was there all along--less than fluent English knowledge/skills. And how could it be otherwise? English is a foreign language in Hong Kong, and fluency in a foreign language is hard to achieve when that language is only used minimally in a school setting. Almost no one in Hong Kong really wants to learn English--they do it for educational and ultimately economic reasons. I would argue that Hong Kong students do pretty well, considering the context. So quit whining!
Full-stop after 'English'.
It would have sounded much better , or
It sounds much better
Since when has intellect, educational level or language skill been a barrier to Legco? It's the vote that matters.




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