Given the choice between fluency in English or Putonghua, most people pick English, a poll has found. They would also prefer their children to have the same ability, although most professionals believed Putonghua would become the more dominant language. The study, conducted by a senior lecturer in the English Department at Chinese University, Joseph Boyle, revealed that people held 'an encouragingly positive and comfortable attitude towards English'. The survey interviewed 1,093 people aged between 16 and 50. Mr Boyle said the majority considered English a practical means of communication rather than a colonial domination. 'It is not a matter of losing one's culture,' Mr Boyle said. 'Many interviewees would find Cantonese to be more expressive orally. But when the time comes, when they need to use English, they will.' Asked to choose between English and Putonghua if they could only be good at one, 75 per cent of the people chose English, while 19 per cent chose Putonghua. Under the same condition, 79 per cent would prefer their children to be good at English. Only nine per cent would prefer them to speak Putonghua. Professor Lau Siu-kai, Preparatory Committee member and Hong Kong Institute of Asia Pacific Studies associate director, said the findings were understandable as English had become a practical necessity. 'Although Hong Kong is returning to China, it is still part of the Western economic system and English would be the language used,' he said. 'And as long as China stays a developing country, there will exist Chinese who admire the English language and give it a higher social and cultural status.' But the growing influence of Putonghua was also confirmed. Civil servants interviewed said the use of Putonghua was near zero, but they expected it to soar to 75 per cent within 10 years. Professionals who responded to the survey said they expected the use of Putonghua to rise from five per cent at present to 65 per cent in 10 years' time. Mr Boyle said Putonghua might take over English as the language of the elite. 'That is the case in Guangzhou right now. Although many people speak Cantonese there, parents prefer to send their kids to Putonghua-speaking schools,' Mr Boyle said. Professor Lau said Putonghua teaching should not be imposed after 1997.