English is essential to HK's identity

English is essential to HK's identity

A meeting was held to discuss how Hong Kong needs to raise its English standards if it is to be competitive in world business

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From left: Michael Tien, Alice Au, SCMP's Yonden Lhatoo, Kelly Yang.
Photo: Bruce Yan/SCMP

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun says English in Hong Kong has been forgotten. He believes if technology is the city's future, then it needs to push for higher English standards.

Tien says people have been ignoring English for years. He was speaking at the Redefining Hong Kong series, organised by SCMP, where panelists argued over how English standards affect the city.

"When was the last time 'English standards' were mentioned in the chief executive's main speech?" Tien asked. "It was seven years ago. Since then, English has been forgotten."

Tien argued English standards in Hong Kong were not really getting worse, but the weak links - writing and speaking - had not improved.

Other speakers agreed the government needed to rethink how English is taught in local schools. They warned Hong Kong risks losing its competitive edge as an international city.

"I believe the future for Hong Kong is technology. To succeed we need good English," Tien said.

Kelly Yang, who runs an English learning programme, said it's a problem that 90 per cent of primary school teachers use Cantonese to teach English."It's a matter of losing our identity, because we are not just a mainland city," she said.

Ming Chen, a boss at EF Education First, a language education company, used research to argue against the government's claims that there was no evidence to show English standards were slipping in Hong Kong.

She said Hong Kong's English-language skills ranked below mainland cities Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin last year, and this year's findings showed a similar situation.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
English is essential to HK's identity

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