Delving into the treasure trove of Chinese literature helps improve proficiency in the language, a seminar was told. Organised by the Faculty of Education of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CU), the seminar on language proficiency was held at Sha Tin Town Hall. Speakers included a specialist in dermatology and venereology, Dr Ip Wing-kin; the associate dean of business and administration at CU, Professor Andrew Chan Chi-fai; counselling psychologist at the CU education faculty, Lam Man-ping; and the managing director of B & G Engineering, Leung Yan-cheng. Professor Chan said it was a shame if people were not proficient in their mother language. 'By definition, 'proficiency' means the ability to understand and communicate,' he said. 'It's sad to say, but common problems facing our students today include using the wrong phrases and words, mixing Chinese and English, and being unable to express an idea precisely.' One way to improve proficiency in Chinese was to study the literary language, Professor Chan told the seminar. 'It would eliminate redundant words and expressions and lead to more precise spoken and written Chinese. 'And there would be less chance of being misunderstood.' 'Mastering your own language is being like a fish in water,' Professor Lee said. And seeking the wisdom of the ancients was one way of improving proficiency, he said. Dr Ip said reading the works of philosophers such as Confucius, Chuang Tsz and Mencius, could shed new light on old problems. 'Studying Chinese history and the work of the ancient philosophers is always inspiring. Sayings such as 'turn grief into strength', 'think of danger in times of safety', and 'don't be a frog in a well', were inspiring, Dr Ip said. Professor Lam agreed a background in classical Chinese literature was enormously helpful, even in a modern context. Students could refer to the classics when they failed to find a suitable word to express an idea, she said. 'Even if you speak excellent English or are fluent in other languages, no one will respect you if you can't speak your own language well.' Mr Leung, who has been a civil engineer for more than 10 years, said the Chinese language had assumed a growing importance, especially since the handover. 'Strong communication skills are beneficial to your career prospects too,' he said. Rapid development on the mainland had been a boost for the Chinese language, Mr Leung said. 'So if you can express an idea clearly and precisely it can only help you to get ahead.'