Learning to speak

Learning to speak

Schools to help migrants learn Chinese

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End our language barrier_L
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP
The growing number of school-aged immigrants has finally forced the government to provide greater support for those who aren't fluent in Chinese.

The upcoming policy address will set out plans to allocate resources for teaching Chinese as a second language in Hong Kong's public schools.

One person delighted by the news is 18-year-old Qureshi Muhammad Talha.

He says it will help minority students settle into life in Hong Kong. Talha is one of around 15,000 children in Hong Kong's public schools who don't speak Chinese fluently, most of whom are from South Asia.

"I couldn't speak or write Chinese at all then. I felt so left out because the teachers always spoke in Cantonese. It was difficult for me because I couldn't communicate with the local students," said the Form Five student from Delia Memorial School in Kwun Tong. Talha was born in Pakistan and came to Hong Kong aged 13.

Talha once went to an interview for a summer job. Despite answering all the questions in English confidently, he was asked whether he could read and write Chinese. When he said he couldn't, he knew he wouldn't get the job.

"I do wish the policy had been in place earlier when I first arrived," he said. "If I had studied Chinese back then, I'm sure I'd be able to read and write Chinese by now."

Connie Lau Man-yuen, head of Delia Memorial's multicultural education department, added that she supports the policy, but the government must provide plenty of support for it to work.


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