The language of instruction in our schools can be relied on to spark vigorous debate, particularly if change is in the air. The hot reception that lawmakers gave the education secretary yesterday over his proposals for 'fine tuning' the language policy is evidence of that. Our report omits a nostalgic observation by catering sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, but it is relevant to learning English. Mr Cheung recalled that during the 1950s and 1960s, he and his contemporaries listened to many songs in English, and even wrote their own lyrics in English, which helped in learning the practical use of the language. The relevance is to be found in another report today, on page C7, about a comeback of English-language music among young Hong Kong singers and bands. The popularity of English music continued into the 1970s, when Canto-pop became dominant. Its comeback here can be attributed to the penetration of the internet, which has created a worldwide market of audiophiles to whom English is the universal language. As a result, says Professor Phil Benson of the Institute of Education, who is studying English-language pop in Hong Kong, the local band scene has become more international, with about 200 performing in English. Canto-pop stars who include English songs on their albums are finding interest overseas, and Chinese TV features them in music programmes. Record companies facing low Canto-pop sales are marketing albums with English-language releases to audiophiles. Emphasis on proficiency in English creates a predicament for a predominantly Chinese-speaking society, notably lack of exposure to everyday English usage. In that respect, in earlier times, listening to English-language music played an important role. Students of English grammar may be appalled at the idea of young people learning the language from pop music lyrics. They often break the rules of grammar to fit the music. Few singers can match the phrasing of the late Frank Sinatra and the like. But then, perhaps few young people would listen to them. Nonetheless, pop lyrics with which they can identify can add a dimension to the subject not found in the educational focus on English grammar.