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Carrie Lam

Why Hong Kong needs to speak up in English

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 8:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 8:00am

I refer to the article by Philip Yeung, “Why we must stay bilingual” (July 8). I was among those taken aback by the comments of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who implied it was a waste of time to field a question from English-language media.

Ms Lam is a graduate of the University of Hong Kong, and started her career as a civil servant several decades ago. She has a good command of English, and always responds to media queries in both Chinese and English. What induced her to say that answering a question raised in English would be a redundant act?

Before 1997, it was common to see key government officials speak English, either in the Legislative Council or to the media. However, today’s senior civil servants seem to have lost interest in replying to reporters’ questions in English. The main reason probably has to do with their fluency in the language.

Why are Hongkongers so afraid to speak English?

In both primary and secondary schools, language teachers are expected to equip students with a good command of English. The government introduced the Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers as far back as 2001, to be used as a yardstick for teachers’ abilities to teach in English or Chinese.

Despite these efforts, even children studying English from an early age struggle with the language, as many have few opportunities in their daily lives to put into practice what they have learned at school.

In 2000, the government launched the Workplace English Campaign to encourage Hongkongers to speak English on the job. It was a good move that boosted the brand image of Hong Kong as Asia’s world city. But are we making the most of such resources to maintain the status quo of Hong Kong as an English-speaking international city?

Pages Ng, Tuen Mun