The changing language attitude of Hong Kongers in recent decades

By Kunyao Kuang


My final project is about the language attitude and ideology in Chinese dialect films. When I was collecting materials for the project, I found many interesting studies about Hong Kongers’ language attitudes towards Cantonese, Mandarin and English so I would like to share it here.

Hong Kong was under British colonial rule from 1841 to 1997 (excluding the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945). During this period, Hong Kong people used both English and Cantonese. It is believed that a diglossic relationship was formed that English was prestigious language that used by the government, schools and in other formal occasions, while Cantonese was used among friends, families and in informal occasions. Code-switching of English and Cantonese was, or is very common for Hong Kongers. In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to the sovereignty of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) by British. The government of HK SAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) has carried out a new language policy, which is “Biliterate and Trilingual Policy” that Hong Kongers should be proficient in written Chinese and English, and able to speak Cantonese, Putonghua and English (Tung, 1997). Therefore, after the handover, the status of the national language of the PRC, Putonghua (also known as Mandarin), was predicted to increase tremendously very soon.

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Well, I have a knack for languages, but attitudes towards the language/speakers do matter!

By Mansour Ahmed:

In school, Arabic, namely Arabic grammar, which constitutes a chronic headache for most students of Arabic, was my favorite subject. I especially looked forward to sentence parsing and assigning the proper cases and diacritical marks to lexical items. In grade 7, I started learning English. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it just as much, English grammar in particular. Motivated by some German friends, I once decided to learn German all by myself. In three months, I learned so much. My pronunciation was almost native-like, according to them. A few years ago, I decided to add French to the list. Initially, my knack did not fail me (but it began to falter, see below for whys). Perhaps, this is genetically determined because my kids do outstandingly well in languages (Arabic, English, and French) in school. Hence, it may be possible to say that some people have a knack for languages while others don’t. Besides this special gift for languages, which to date has not been fully accounted for and understood by SLA researchers (to the best of my knowledge), it is argued that how well and how fast a second language can be acquired depends on a number of factors/variables, such as motivation, L2 instruction, and attitudes (among others). I will endeavour to tersely illustrate the role of attitudes in L2 acquisition (NB: the attitudes I am talking about here is slightly different from those in VH chapter).

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How do attitudes and ideologies from diverse groups affect my English Learning?

Yuting Zhao

The two articles in this week really strike a chord with me. They remind me of many things about my English learning. In this blog, I would like to talk about how attitudes and ideologies from diverse groups affect my English learning experience.

Attitudes and ideologies from my parents

My mother told me, fifty years ago, in China, as long as people can speak English, it is very good. But since twenty years ago, with the development of Chinese economic reform, not only should people know how to speak English, but also they need to speak Standardized English (Native English). My parents perceived and predicted that speaking native English will be a survival tool for me in the future. Why is English a survival tool? Because they think native English will make me adapt better in a globalized environment so that I can live better. They demonstrated their beliefs by sending me to a bilingual (English-Chinese) school in another city when I was six. I guessed that was probably the toughest time in my whole life but I indeed learned a lot.

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Positives​ and negatives of language learning

Sophia G

Language is a tricky thing. On one hand, it is given to us freely; on the other, we really have no choice in the language that we are given. Some of us are even gifted with multilingual families and learn many languages, others are gifted a small snapshot of one language.

Language and the composition of a person’s languages can largely impact their whole life. When asked to look at the positives and negatives of my language learning and my language composition, it came out strangely negative. I found this quite sad. First, let’s start out by explaining my language composition.

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