English level in Hong Kong

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Jul 29 14:13:24 UTC 2008

English level in HK

I was asked by an English lady when I started learning English, I
hesitated and answered 3 years old. It's correct for the official
english-learning starting age in Hong Kong. Every time I answer this,
the other person would be like "no wonder your English is so good".
The point is not boasting here. It's the English level of general Hong
Kong students I want to talk about. Whenever people said "no
wonder....", I always wanted to say that it's not true, average HK
students or people don't have this level, I am not a good example. I
don't want to give them a wrong impression that everyone in Hong Kong
speaks good English. Although that's what I wish.

As a language learner, I would understand why people would think it's
normal to have a good level of a foreign language if it's started at
such a young age, but the thing they don't understand is that the
language policy and learning mode is not one that encourages students
to boldly speak and practise, it's just passive learning. The teacher
talks and the students listen, how could students learn well in this
kind of environment? I don't blame the teacher since they grew up the
same way, and hiring native English teachers is not cheap for schools,
even with government subsidy, just one NET isn't enough to care for a
thousand students in a school.

I really want to help changing the education policy in Hong Kong, to
be honest, it's a mess now with officials who know nothing about
education. They are promoting learning through mother tongue, i.e.
cantonese, I don't reject that, but it's the way and speed they try to
push it wrong. Seems like there's no planning, AT ALL! They are
frustrating both students and parents in Hong Kong, that's why all the
families who can afford it would send their kids to international
schools, even they would be speaking crap cantonese. How sacarstic!
Hong Kong government is making Hong Kong people think that our mother
tongue is not worth learning and being able to speak English is more
superior. It's a sad thing to see happening.

I want people to be able to understand that both mother tongue and
English are important, and not being able to speak one's own language
should be a shameful thing instead of something to be proud of!


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