Eight in 10 Hong Kong people consider English proficiency important but give themselves failing marks in listening, vocabulary, grammar and spelling.
Only half of respondents in a survey gave themselves a score of five to seven out of 10 in English proficiency while three in 10 put themselves at zero to four, Headline Daily reports.
The survey was conducted by the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong. It was commissioned by English training center Wall Street English.
About 76 percent of the interviewees had secondary or tertiary education, 43 percent were corporate executives, professionals and clerical staff. Just eight percent were students.
The survey, carried out from July to September, polled 500 people 18 and above.
It found that the average self-assessed score in listening, spelling, grammar and vocabulary among all respondents was under five.
To test the respondents’ workplace English, they were asked to spell “advice”.
Less than half correctly spelled it while 16 percent misspelled its verb form “advise”, according to Sky Post.
Only 14 percent correctly selected the phrases to express “attached is the document” and 12.1 percent associated the correct phrase with “what can I help you with?”
Wall Street English marketing director Chow Yan-kei said the deterioration of English proficiency among Hongkongers is due to the increasing use of internet slang, the growing importance of Putonghua as a business language and lack of practice opportunity to use or speak English.
With the proliferation of instant messaging tools, Chow said people like to use “Hong Kong-style English” during their day-to-day communication, which prevents them from expanding their vocabulary.
They are likely to struggle for the right words on formal occasions.
English proficiency in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia is constantly improving while that in Hong Kong has fallen behind, undermining its competitiveness, according to a managing partner at international human resources firm Signium.
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