Students are shying away from using English outside classes, with more than a third saying they have never tried to communicate with native speakers in the past year and barely 6 per cent saying they do so often.
Just under a quarter of the students said they had never read English newspapers and magazines, and slightly over a fifth said they did not browse English websites.
The survey, conducted late last month by the Federation of Youth Groups, polled 519 students in secondary schools and universities.
Findings showed 34.9 per cent of the respondents did not communicate with native English speakers outside school in the past year.
Only 29 students, or 5.6 per cent, said they talked to native speakers 'frequently'.
More than half said they never listened to English radio channels and close to 20 per cent said they never read English books. About 30 per cent said they never wrote e-mails in English, while 8.2 per cent said they never watched English-language films.
Some 30.7 per cent blamed a lack of English learning atmosphere in school. About half of them cited a 'lack of related activities' and 19.5 per cent said their teachers rarely spoke English.
'Most Hong Kong students are afraid of speaking English,' said Pauline Chow Lo-sai, chairman of the Women Teachers' Organisation. 'They lack self-confidence and they think everything coming out of their mouths will be wrong.'
Ms Chow also said it was important for teachers to arouse students' interest.
An Education Bureau spokesman said the government had been making efforts to support English teaching, citing the Native-speaking English Teacher Scheme and the HK$900 million English Enhancement Scheme.