Three prominent scholars addressed a cross-regional seminar on English learning for the 21st century. The seminar, conducted in three sessions, was held in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei. During the session in the SAR held at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Professor Zhang Longxi of the City University; Yan Pui-chi, a veteran English teacher; and Ramesh Krishnamurthy of Britain's University of Birmingham, were invited to speak on modern English learning. 'English has been a very important medium of communication for Hong Kong. This hasn't changed after the handover,' said Terence Leung Wing-chung, marketing director of Hong Kong Educational Publishing, a subsidiary of the Commercial Press. 'We think if Hong Kong is to maintain its status as a financial and trading centre we must be able to have a good command of this language.' The seminar began with Professor Zhang's talk on 'Cultural Knowledge and the Effectiveness of English'. As a scholar specialising in the comparative study of Chinese and English literature, he believed that language was much more than a medium. In fact, it was the embodiment of a nation's cultural heritage and, therefore, a language should always be seen in its historical and cultural context. Mr Yan explored the major difficulties local students have to overcome in order to learn English effectively. Their exposure English was not sufficient. They lacked the drive to learn to speak English. They also did not have a model on which to base their learning in their day-to-day life. Mr Krishnamurthy pointed out that the difficulties Chinese learners met in learning English were not just confined to them. Global language He also discussed some of the problems that were likely to hinder the development of English into a truly global language. According to his analysis, there is no generally recognised authority on English. There are more non-native speakers than native speakers and there are many varieties of English, which may lead to fragmentation.