Talking points: Should the Hong Kong government use English more often?

Compiled by Melanie Leung

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Compiled by Melanie Leung |

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Belinda Ng, 15, South Island School

When government officials shun English, it's not good for Hong Kong's reputation as an international city. I believe English is the world's most influential language. So it is important for the Hong Kong government to use it a lot, along with Cantonese. This sends a message of multiculturalism and diversity to the international community. Otherwise, people will suffer. They will miss out on many opportunities, whether it's business partnerships or simply meeting new friends.

Moreover, the media here is very powerful, so it could be used to promote the usage of English in the city. Hence, I think the government should use English a lot more when dealing with the media and public.

Leuven Wang, 13, KGV

The government's reluctance to use English could affect people's thinking. Some may think that there's no need to master the language because it's not very important. However, since English is still being used in many aspects of everyday life, I don't believe the government's attitude will lead to a big drop in the city's English literacy rate.

However, I do feel that the government should give equal status to both English and Chinese because they are official languages of Hong Kong.

Cherry Chan, 16, Sha Tin College

Despite being bilingual, I find it difficult to understand Chinese text. By neglecting English, the government is ignoring a whole community of English speakers of all ages and ethnicities who are living in Hong Kong. Also, it spoils Hong Kong's image as an "international and finance centre".

Using English helps us to reach out to others and stay in touch with what's happening around the world. The government's "pro-Chinese" trend is bad news for the city's minorities, as well as its future generations.

If English is given second-class status, children who are just starting school will have less opportunities to improve their language skills. And they could find it harder to become "global citizens".

Yu Lok-yiu, 16, South Tuen Mun Government Secondary School

It is clear that the city's English standards are dropping. We study English in school, but how can the public be persuaded to learn the language if our government officials rarely use it? Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made only 28 speeches in English over the 12 months to the end of May. He made 61 public speeches in Chinese over the same period. This is a problem because bad translations can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

As the most powerful person in Hong Kong, Leung should realise that English is not just an official language; it is crucial to help Hong Kong maintain its position on the international stage.

Unless the government uses English more often to communicate with the media and public, it will be difficult to promote its use in the community.

Shirley Tsang, 21, University of Toronto, Canada

The government is setting a bad example by favouring Chinese over English. Many students, and even some adults, read public speeches and statements by government ministers to improve their language skills. This is one of the reasons why the administration should not cut down on the use of English when communicating with the public and media. Moreover, it "forces" other residents in our city to learn Chinese in order to know what is happening in Hong Kong.

The officials' growing preference for Chinese means the public could view English as an "unnecessary language". The result will be a drop in Hong Kong's English standards, which could hurt us in the future.

Tell us what you think in the comment box below.

You're welcome to join the conversation. In our next Talking Points, we'll discuss:

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