Letters to the editor, May 9, 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 May, 2016, 5:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 May, 2016, 5:13pm

A few errors in spoken English not a problem

I have noticed a trend of reporting how English standards are declining in the SAR, most recently highlighting a study that showed a majority of speakers mispronouncing ­certain words.

Well, what of it? Language is more like an art than a science: the goal is communication, not some arbitrary measure of perfection. English speakers on the Indian subcontinent have ­developed a unique way of pronouncing English, and they manage just fine in the international world.

There’s no reason why Hong Kong speakers couldn’t do the same.

Linguistically, the promise of Hong Kong is that its residents should be among a relatively small number of people who can easily move between what are arguably the two most economically important languages on earth: Chinese and English.

This competitive advantage is so important that we cannot risk accidentally discouraging ­people from using English, Putonghua, and Cantonese in a multitude of situations by browbeating them about the correctness of their speech or writing. Let’s just let them communicate without judgment or ridicule.

If native Chinese speakers can tolerate my attempts at both Cantonese and written Chinese, I can certainly tolerate a few infelicities in my native language. Indeed, if we can deal humanely with each other in the messy microcosm of language use, perhaps there’s a chance we can deal equally humanely with one another in the similarly perplexing macrocosm of politics, ­culture, and identity.

Malcolm Litchfield, Sai Ying Pun

Give minorities a better chance to find work

I refer to the report, “Language barrier in jobs market” (May 3) and the obstacles many people from ethnic minorities face when looking for work in Hong Kong if they cannot read, write and speak Chinese.

For many jobs In Hong Kong, you are required to be fluent in spoken and written Chinese.

For example, for jobs like a waitress, hair stylist or a librarian in one of the government’s libraries, you will have to be ­fluent in spoken and written Chinese and be able to converse comfortably in Cantonese.

In fact, there are many jobs where employers will make these language skills a stipulation and this may effectively close the door for citizens from an ethnic minority who are keen to do the job.

The problem is that the government has failed to give these groups sufficient support in the field of Chinese-language education and this has made it more difficult for them to get work given the working environment in this city.

The administration has to recognise this is a problem and it must ensure that these people are given the proper language training that they need so that they can have a chance of getting decent work.

It needs to improve this area of education so citizens from ethnic ­minorities can get the ­command of Chinese that they need to be competitive in the jobs market.

Kitty Chung Hoi-ching, Yau Yat Chuen

Help available to children with problems

Child neglect is a serious problem in Hong Kong and we have to address it in a logical way.

Child neglect in a family can sometimes be due to ignorance on the part of parents.

It may be that they work long hours and might not get home until late at night. By then, their children have already gone to bed.

Children need to know they are loved and those with physical and mental disabilities may require a great deal of extra help. However, parents who are busy may struggle to provide that help.

As they grow older and with no lines of real lines of communcation between children and parents, some youngsters resort to using illegal drugs to release the mental anguish they feel and if they are under pressure.

Of course, the drugs offer no help, quite the opposite, and they may have developed ­a ­serious problem of dependency before they are discovered.

Young people who feel they are being neglected should seek professional advice promptly.

Counsellors must be available who are able to help them with their problems.

Even youngsters who have developed a drug problem should recognise that it is never too late for them to get help with their problems and that solutions can be found for them with the right counselling.

Jessica So Yau-nga, Sham Shui Po

Raising concerns about freedom in city

I agree with those who have ­argued that Hong Kong, with the Basic Law, has more freedom than Singapore. However, it has a lot of contradictions and divisions in society.

And things have deteriorated here since the case of the missing booksellers. Freedom of the press and individual freedom are not as secure as they were.

Also there are so many voices disagreeing with government policies and we have seen more conflict in society with the umbrella revolution and the riot in Mong Kok. There appears to be growing lack of trust in the administration. Singapore does not appear to suffer from these problems, nor does it have to deal with the problem of parallel traders.

While overall things might appear to be better in the Lion City, we should continue to stand up for Hong Kong which is our home. We should keep ­defending our basic rights.

Jacky Leung Kai-kit, Tseung Kwan O

China must deal with obesity crisis

I refer to the article, “The bitter truth about sugar”, (May 3).

Obesity is becoming a ­serious social issue nowadays in China, especially with regard to adolescents, and it appears to be getting worse.

As China is a developing country, citizens now have more of a disposable income. They are able to spend more on clothes and food.

The central government needs to recognise there is a problem and deal with it. It needs to implement an education programme through advertising, explaining to adolescents the negative side-effects of ­eating fast food full of fat, oil and sugar.

They should be encouraged to opt for healthy food such as vegetables and fruit. I would also support a fat tax, to try and ­reduce the frequency of people eating junk food. If junk food ­becomes more expensive, then hopefully an increasing number of people will reduce their ­intake.

Parents should also encourage their children to count their calories and try to control their weight. They should cook healthier meals in the home.

Rachel Leung Cho-kwan, Sham Shui Po

UK citizens should register to have a vote

On Thursday, June 23, British people will go to the polls to ­decide whether the UK should remain in or leave the European Union.

The outcome of this referendum will affect the lives of many thousands of UK citizens who live in Hong Kong, as well as their families, including children and grandchildren.

Just a fraction of the millions of British people living overseas who are eligible to vote have registered – including in Hong Kong.

Any UK citizen who has been registered to vote in the UK ­within the last 15 years is eligible, and it is easier than ever to ­register in just five minutes ­online.

UK citizens should see www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (or search for “UK register to vote”) to find out more. If you register before May 16, your postal vote should reach you in time to make it back to the UK in time to be counted; or you can appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.

Whatever their views, I urge UK citizens in Hong Kong not to miss the opportunity to have their say.

Caroline Wilson, British consul general to Hong Kong and Macau