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Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam’s concern for English in Hong Kong was lost in translation, but her heart is in the right place

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 6:03pm

Your columnist, Philip Yeung (“It’s not just Carrie Lam: Hong Kong as a whole seems to have forgotten the importance of English”, July 7), criticises Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor but appears to have missed the meaning of what she said.

When Lam said that she would want a simultaneous interpretation service to be provided the next time, to avoid wasting time on repeating in English an answer she had already covered in Cantonese, she meant that she would rather answer more diverse questions than repeat the answer to the same question in the other official language.

If Lam really did not care about English at all, she would not even have suggested providing the interpretation service.

Ms Lam cares about reporters a lot more than any of our past chief executives. In 2017, when she delivered the policy address, she even extended the Q&A session with reporters from 45 minutes to 75 minutes. She is more than willing to take more questions.

By the same token, she did not want to waste time on repeating answers in another language, because she wanted to answer different questions. This shows how pragmatic a government leader she is.

As Mr Yeung highlighted, Hong Kong is a bilingual city; it is then logical to assume that local media professionals should be able to function bilingually. Chinese reporters should be able to understand questions and answers in English, and vice versa. For international reporters, who are probably used to listening to simultaneous interpretation because of the nature of their work, such a service should be provided, as Lam suggested.

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Almost all government papers available online have both the English and Chinese versions. Our government leaders are also quite proficient in English. Debates in the Legislative Council, mainly in Chinese, are simultaneously interpreted in English.

How, then, can we say that the government is downplaying the role of English? Critics should not take a few words out of context and blow them out of proportion.

Anson Chan, North Point