Time to speak up

Time to speak up

Learning a different language can prove unexpectedly rewarding

Many Hongkongers are interested in learning a second language that is not English. They often find the learning experience - whether for fun or practical reasons - gives them greater insight about life and offers new opportunities.

Winnie Leung Wing-yee, a music graduate of Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, has studied German at Wan Chai's Goethe-Institut Hongkong, since 2010.

"After years of playing music by many German composers, such as Bach and Beethoven, I decided to learn the language," the 28-year-old piano teacher says. "During my studies, I had a chance to join a music tour in Germany. I really enjoyed it; the language's like a beautiful melody."

Accountant and fellow student Kevin Leung Kam-chuen appreciates German in a different way. "It's a practical language with a clear structure," says the 41-year-old, who was inspired to study German after a trip to Europe.

"I was surprised people in many places I visited didn't know English, but could speak German."

Learning a new language often offers students unexpected rewards. "I've met new friends and learned a different perspective from understanding the culture," Kevin Leung says. "I can converse with German-speaking clients at work, which has boosted my credentials."

Winnie Leung says: "I used to be a shy person. But I must speak German with classmates all the time. Now I'm more open with others."

Her language experiences have inspired her to follow her dream. "I'd like to pursue a master's degree in music in Germany," she says.

Jens Rosler, the institute's deputy director and head of the language department, says German is gaining popularity in Hong Kong. The institute's yearly intake of 4,000 students includes teenagers, young professionals and diplomats. "Studying a foreign language, whether German or something else, helps open your mind to a new way of thinking; it offers you a different perspective to the world," Rosler says.

Chan Hang-yee 32, is off to France to continue his studies next month. His academic success won him a scholarship from the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau to take a master's degree in cognitive science at Ecole Normale Superieure, a college in Paris.

"I wouldn't have dreamed of doing this had I not studied French," he says.

Chan studied French for more than two years before taking classes at Alliance Francaise de Hong Kong six months ago. The school has more than 6,000 students each year - 36 per cent are children and teenagers. "Learning French has increased my range of thoughts and given me a new world perspective," Chan says.

Elsewhere, Ingrid Lam Yi-kit, 17, is one of the 50 students at Viva Spanish Language Centre in Mong Kok.

"There are no downsides to learning a new language," she says. "It's an on-going challenge that motivates me in life. It has benefited me a lot and will continue to do so. As my teacher says, You know Chinese, you know English. Once you know Spanish, you'll conquer the world!'."

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