AS an international city, Hong Kong is a place where English seems to be a more important language than Cantonese. So students should start thinking of the city's uniqueness and prepare themselves for the future. Towards this end, undergraduates of the University of Hong Kong were able to pick up extra knowledge on the English language at a five-day English festival which started on Monday on campus. The ''English Festival '94'' was organised by the Faculty of Arts' English Society to arouse and promote interest in studying the language. ''English is widely used in Hong Kong; its situation is so unique that in aspects such as education, government and social interaction, its function and status are different,'' said Venus Lam Yik-lan, festival chairman at the opening ceremony. With that in mind, she said the society was holding the festival to give a clearer picture of the position of English in Hong Kong. Under the theme, ''The Uniqueness of English in Hong Kong: Past, Present and Future'', activities including seminars, board exhibition, essay-writing competition and a karaoke night were held. English Department head Professor John Joseph told students not to worry about the past and present of English language. ''You should pay attention to its future - the importance of English language because you are the future,'' Prof Joseph said. He said the language was important to them, for example, when they were looking for jobs, seeking promotion, or deciding to further their studies. The winners of the essay-writing competition were announced on the first day. The competition comprised two sections - one for secondary students and the other for HKU students. The winner in the secondary school section was Alistair So Hong, a sixth-former of Diocesan Boys' School. His topic was ''If Hong Kong wants English, then Hong Kong must make English its own''. ''His work was done in a very sophisticated manner,'' adjudicator Kingsley Bolton said. ''It pointed out that in Hong Kong English could be adapted to the Hong Kong way of life and could be adapted to Chinese and Hong Kong culture.'' Alistair said he just knew he was the champion on Monday morning so he was really shocked and very excited. ''At first, I didn't really quite get the meaning of the topic I chose, but I decided just to express and convey my ideas,'' the 17-year-old winner said. Lee Man-kin, 25, was winner in the university section writing on ''English Can be Fun''. He felt it was the originality of his piece that won the hearts of the judges. The third year student of the English Department said he preferred that his essay was read by someone else first. Hence, he thought it was a wise decision to have someone read it before submission. Adjudicator Professor John Joseph said Man-kin did a good job in writing his essay which met the three criteria - originality, content and language - the panel of judges was looking for.