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English skills are essential for Hong Kong to remain a ‘world city’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 11:24pm

I refer to Elbert Lee’s article (“How English can save Hong Kong from becoming just another Chinese city”, February 1).

I agree with Mr Lee’s argument that Hong Kong must protect its bilingualism, on which the city has prided itself ever since it was colonised by the British.

Twenty years on from the handover, English is still an official language of Hong Kong, and is still the international lingua franca. Hong Kong may no longer be a British colony, but it’s still an international business hub that has earned its branding as “Asia’s world city”.

Will 2018 be the year Shenzhen and Guangzhou finally overtake Hong Kong?

To maintain this coveted title, it’s imperative that Hong Kong maintains its bilingualism, or, as Lee warns, it will simply “just another city” in China.

Sadly, I can’t help but worry about the city’s ever-waning English standards and an increasingly passive attitude towards learning the language.

How Hongkongers benefit from speaking many languages

According to surveys conducted in recent years by Education First, even non-English-speaking countries in Asia – like South Korea and Japan – have surpassed the city in terms of English proficiency. This trend has to be reversed.

The language needs to be taught in a more enjoyable way, rather than through tedious textbooks and exams

For one, the government needs to do more to promote English in Hong Kong. Government officials need to lead by example, by having at least a reasonable grasp of English as well as demonstrating a positive attitude and a willingness to speak the language, which they appears to fall short on at times.

Another issue is that the overall English environment in Hong Kong is simply inadequate, and more needs to be done to address this.

There needs to be more English in media such as radio, television and local websites. English teachers, both local and NET (native-speaking English teachers), need to be better trained and the language needs to be taught in a more enjoyable way, rather than through tedious, outdated textbooks and exams. Most Hong Kong locals simply need to be given more of an incentive to learn or improve their English skills.

These are just a few ways in which we can help reverse the worrying trend of declining English standards in Hong Kong.

Andrew Nunn, Stanley