Education officials have got it wrong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 2:51am


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I refer to the letter by Kendra Ip ("Wise use of Chinese can help process of teaching English", February 27).

Your correspondent's opinions are borne out by my experience of learning English as a fourth former of a secondary school with English as the medium of instruction.

I accept that only by having a high level of English proficiency can I have a stronger competitive edge when I join the labour market.

Recognising this, I have worked hard over the past 12 years to improve my standard of English, but I have faced a lot of difficulties. However, I have found that using Chinese (Cantonese) can facilitate and motivate my learning of English as my second language. As Ms Ip pointed out, when students are taught English idioms, it is more effective if they are given Chinese equivalents.

This enables students to further draw upon their backgrounds, such as their childhood experiences as Chinese to understand the meaning of the second language.

From past experience I know that I can remember the English idioms better with the help of an explanation in Chinese. Learning in this way has actually enhanced my understanding of both languages. The gap between my teachers' instructions and my ability to grasp what they are saying becomes narrower. I fully support wise use of Chinese by teachers during English-language lessons.

A bilingual teaching method helps students develop a genuine interest in English. Learning is successful if there is a fun element which can engage students. Despite the constraints of "English only" at schools, with English as the medium of instruction, teachers should focus on the importance of providing the most effective learning environment for students. Without the right environment, it is difficult for youngsters to enjoy the language-learning experience and this makes it equally difficult for teachers to get satisfaction from their work in the classroom.

This leads to teachers and their pupils feeling discouraged. Education Bureau officials should ask themselves if they should be held accountable for creating such a negative learning atmosphere in English-language classes.

I can understand that without any appropriate studies having being done, it is difficult for the bureau to change the existing policy. However, I agree with Ms Ip that the top priority should be the long-term benefits for students.

I hope something can be done to ensure that, in future, students in Hong Kong face less stress and that learning English can be made less boring.

Lee Suet-ching, To Kwa Wan