A lack of opportunities to practise is the main problem with learning another language, a survey of students has revealed. More than 50 per cent of the respondents said their difficulties with written language and conversation were mainly due to the lack of regular practice and contact with the language they were studying. The survey was conducted by RTHK's Educational Television Division and commissioned by the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) Social Science Research Centre. It was carried out using questionnaires answered by secondary students chosen by their schools for having good language ability. Of the 398 questionnaires distributed, 209 were returned, while 75 per cent of respondents were female and most were matriculation students. Even though 62 per cent of respondents thought their lan guage ability could meet the needs of further education, they were not confident it could match their job needs. Survey respondents said having a good learning environment and good language teachers were the two basic but important requirements for learning Cantonese, Putonghua or English. A lack of opportunities to practise, particularly in conversation, was to blame for falling language standards in secondary schools, HKU social science research officer Robert Chung Ting-yiu said. 'School is the base to provide language training and the family is the tool to exercise it,' he said. Mr Chung said the only way to reverse the present situation was to change the teaching process to parallel the needs of society. 'Both school guidance and personal efforts are crucial,' he said. Although students felt satisfied with their language teachers and courses, they were disappointed with resources available to aid self-learning. Respondents said their efforts to practise on their own were often hampered by the low quality of language books in school libraries and the lack of language-related extra-curricular activities. The majority said books were the most helpful medium for learning languages, followed by newspapers. However, comics were regarded as a negative influence. The survey focused on the relationship between languages and the future development of students, factors affecting language learning, students' evaluation of the efforts their schools had put into language learning and the relationship between language learning and the media.