[lg policy] To stay competitive, Hong Kong must polish its skills in using the English language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Nov 12 16:05:08 UTC 2015


 To stay competitive, Hong Kong must polish its skills in using the English
language




   - [image: Almost 80 per cent of the 68,700 students passed the Diploma
   of Secondary Education (DSE) English language test, but students struggled
   with pronunciation and lacked exposure to authentic materials such as
   newspapers and magazines. Photo: May Tse]
   <http://cdn1.scmp.com/sites/default/files/styles/980w/public/2015/11/12/scmp_25mar13_ns_exam17_elmt7433a_34861431.jpg?itok=DbgZfQUa>

Almost 80 per cent of the 68,700 students passed the Diploma of Secondary
Education (DSE) English language test, but students struggled with
pronunciation and lacked exposure to authentic materials such as newspapers
and magazines. Photo: May Tse

The standard of English in Hong Kong has been put under the spotlight again
after the city's ranking in a global language proficiency survey plunged
from 12th to 33rd over the past four years, trailing behind places such as
South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai.

Those who have direct experience with English speakers here and elsewhere
may take issue with the survey, which was based on scores of online tests
taken by more than 900,000 people across the globe.

Like many international surveys, the representativeness of this one by EF
Education First, an international language agency, is also open to debate.
*READ MORE: Appalling English standards in Hong Kong: the biggest culprit
is ...
<http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1806457/appalling-english-standards-hong-kong-biggest-culprit?page=all>*

That, however, does not mean our English proficiency is not a cause for
concern. Take the results of the territory-wide Diploma of Secondary
Education (DSE) as an example.

The common errors highlighted in the report issued by the examination
authority are embarrassing. For instance, students mispronounced "daughter"
as "doctor", "shower" as "sour", and "robot" as "Robert". Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Almost 80 per cent of the 68,700 students passed the English language test.

But a closer look at the students' performance reveals a different picture.
According to the report issued by the examination authority, some students
struggled with pronunciation and lacked exposure to authentic materials
such as newspapers and magazines.
*READ MORE: 'My doctor is in the sour': Hong Kong report highlights common
mistakes by local pupils in English exam
<http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/1877222/my-doctor-sour-hong-kong-report-highlights-common>*

The influence of the Chinese language is also noticeable, resulting in
students writing grammatically incorrect sentences and using expressions
resembling Cantonese ones. The common errors highlighted in the report are
embarrassing.

For instance, students mispronounced "daughter" as "doctor", "shower" as
"sour", and "robot" as "Robert". These kinds of mistakes should not come
from students who have reached higher secondary level.

For the sake of our business competitiveness, we must maintain our ability
to communicate effectively in English. This is recognised by the
government, which rightly makes trilingualism - English, Cantonese and
Putonghua - our language policy. But as the results of the DSE exam show,
the standard of English among the younger generation leaves much to be
desired. It is in our interest to brush up our skills in English lest we
lose out.
http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1878007/stay-competitive-hong-kong-must-polish-its-skills-using

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