Hong Kong people's confidence and proficiency in English has dropped to the same level as mainland Chinese and Thais and fallen way behind Singaporeans, a survey conducted by English language educator Wall Street Institute (WSI) shows. The survey compares English usage in Hong Kong, the mainland, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand. More than 16,000 people responded to the survey conducted via the internet. The findings show that 21 per cent of Hong Kong people take every opportunity to communicate with native English speakers, while only 19 per cent feel comfortable doing so. Only 9 per cent of the respondents from Hong Kong, the mainland, Thailand and Korea claimed they read 'mostly in English', compared with more than 70 per cent of the Singaporean respondents. While Singaporeans use English to communicate with friends very often (31 per cent use it all the time and 36 per cent use it very often), Hong Kong people speak with friends in English just as often as mainland Chinese (6 per cent use it very often and about 30 per cent use it sometimes). 'The survey provides strong evidence for the first time that our position as a leading trade, finance and business centre relying on English as the international language of commerce is under threat,' said Kristin Rogers, general manager of WSI in Hong Kong and Japan. 'The English of Hong Kong people used to be considered better than places like mainland China and Thailand. Now the situation is changing - it is a wake-up call for us. 'If the people of Hong Kong don't take action to improve our English, our international competitiveness, which relies partly on English proficiency, will continue to be eroded by the likes of Singapore, China and Thailand,' Ms Rogers said. Tony Lee, academic director of WSI and team leader of the survey, said: 'Hong Kong is not doing as well as Singapore, but it not doing that badly. 'Hong Kong people should read more English materials and start from there - eventually build up the confidence of using English in daily life,' said Dr Lee, a former senior research officer for the Education and Manpower Bureau.