Students at the University of Hong Kong want to be taught in English, a survey has revealed. Almost all the 2,400 students interviewed said the university should keep English as the teaching language. Only four per cent said it should adopt Cantonese as the main teaching medium and four per cent favoured Putonghua. But David Nunan, director and professor of applied linguistics, said nearly 20 per cent of students often had their lectures in Cantonese. As many as 50 per cent had tutorials and workshops in Cantonese. And some departments taught entirely in Cantonese, added Professor Nunan. He asked how the university could remain an English-medium institute while so many classes were in Cantonese. The professor also pointed out that half of first-year students had a Grade D or below in English, although standards were higher among third-years. 'The students want their classes in English, but they can't understand what the lecturers or tutors are trying to say,' he said. They learned key concepts in English and did more detailed work in Chinese. Nearly 60 per cent of students insisted English should be used for all lectures. Only 30 per cent said the language should be used for all tutorials and workshops. The survey, by the University English Centre and faculties of Social Science and English, showed students admitted they had difficulties speaking, reading, writing and understanding English for academic and non-academic purposes. More than half of those questioned said they needed more training. With a third of first-year students and half of third-year students interviewed, many supported a compulsory English course in the first year. The study, carried out last May, will be submitted to the university's senate to help discussions on language policy and curriculum reforms. English novels are unpopular among teenagers because not many are taught literature at secondary schools, according to the head of English at the University of Hong Kong. Dr Douglas Kerr said first-year students were 'apprehensive' about studying literature. 'They are nervous because they haven't done it before. 'It is new territory to them,' he said at the start of the university's English Society festival celebrating the language - The Influence of the English Novel. English literature is included in the HKCEE and A level but is not compulsory at junior secondary level. Dr Kerr said course tutors had to assume students knew little about English literature.