Proficiency in Putonghua has increased over the past two years, with two in five people in Hong Kong saying they are capable of speaking and understanding the language, according to an RTHK survey. But half of the respondents still think Hong Kong people communicate better in English and Cantonese. Of the 1,015 people interviewed early this month, 40 per cent said they spoke Putonghua while another 20 per cent said their proficiency was 'half-half'. The 40 per cent figure compares with the 30 per cent who said they spoke the language in the previous poll in 2000. Those who do not speak the language dropped from 54 per cent to 39 per cent. The survey was commissioned by RTHK's Putonghua station and conducted by Lingnan University. Listening competency is considered to be even better, with only 24 per cent of those polled saying they did not understand the language. The figure is down from 41.7 per cent. Up to 57 per cent said they were not afraid to communicate in Putonghua, though 23 per cent still had worries. Researcher Li Pang-kwong said China's accession to the World Trade Organisation and Hong Kong's growing trade links with the mainland and Taiwan had provided a strong incentive for people to learn Putonghua. Less than 15 per cent of the survey respondents said they needed to frequently use Putonghua at work or in daily life.