40pc think they have poor language skills More than 40 per cent of Hongkongers think their English level is below average or worse, a survey by the official language trainer for the Beijing Olympics has found. While the government has been boosting Hong Kong's image as 'Asia's world city', only 15 per cent of interviewees see their English as good or above, and only 3 per cent consider it excellent. Tony Lee Yick-pang of the Hong Kong Institute of Education attributed decreasing proficiency to people's attitudes towards public exams. 'The problem is that people learn English just to pass examinations, but not to learn the language as a tool for communication. Most fail to use English in daily life,' Dr Lee said. Many people could not meet the level of proficiency required by their employers, he said, although public exam results did not show a drop in standards. Louisa Li Wan-tung, a former director of the careers centre at the University of Hong Kong, agreed: 'Academically, most students can manage writing and speaking English. But they are unable to express themselves fluently in English when it comes to daily life issues.' Ms Li noted that proficiency in English was increasingly becoming a competitive skill, particularly in times of economic turmoil when jobs were tight. The survey found that 62 per cent considered English very important to success, but only 12 per cent had thought of taking a course. Overall, 27 per cent saw learning English as a way to advance their careers, while 17 per cent said improving their English increased self-confidence. Another 17 per cent said improving their English could make travelling easier. Only 11 per cent saw learning the language as a way to enhance their social life. The survey, conducted by Englishtown in February, interviewed 1,006 people aged between 15 and 64. Englishtown's parent company, Education First, was the official language trainer for the Beijing Olympics. The company trained about 5,000 professionals, including judges and interpreters, and more than 100,000 volunteers for the Games.