American English Becoming More Popular in Hong Kong

    06 November, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    People in Hong Kong speak a rich mixture of languages. Hong Kong was a British colony for more than 156 years before was returned to Chinese control in 1997. English was the only official language until 1994.

    Most people in Hong Kong today speak Cantonese, but Mandarin and other dialects also are heard, and English as the British used is still widely spoken and taught here. Now however, many people are choosing to learn English as it spoken in the United States.

    Victor Chan, for example, has children who attend school called Nature EQ on Saturday and Sunday, they are learning to say words the American way. Mr Chan says he wants his sons to learn American English, because he plans to send them to the United States for further study.

    Nature EQ is one of a growing number of schools in Hong Kong that offer American English classes. Frankie Ng opened the school 17 years ago, at that time, he had only 40 students. Today, the school has 350 students, it does not have space for any more.

    Mr Ng says American English is clear and defined, he says it is easy to teach and easily understood. That, however, is not the main concern of the children.

    Student Sam Yu has another reason for studying English spoken the American way.

    "I think [American English] is getting more and more important, and is maybe taking over the dominance of British English, so I'm willing to learn," said Sam Yu.

    Public schools in the former British colony still teach mostly British English. But the number of private language schools teaching American English is growing.

    In Hong Kong's Tseung Kwan O district, for example, the "American English Workshop school" had 20 students a week when it opened one year ago. Today, it has more 180 each week.

    Some observers say American English is becoming the language of international business. Increased contact with American culture, like movies, television programs, computer games and the Internet is spreading American expressions and accents in areas other than business.

    Language teachers in Hong Kong say wealthy people who live in mainland China are helping to increase the demand for classes in American English. Mainland Chinese are crossing into Hong Kong because it has more educational choices.

    But for now, people hearing English in the streets of Hong Kong are mainly hearing traditional British English.

    "We can understand both, but for what we speak, we speak [with] the British accent," said one local woman.
    "The British is better I think," commented a local man.

    And that's the Education Report. Listen again for another Education Report from VOA Learning English. I'm Avi Arditti.