Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hong Kong Students’ Chinese Proficiency

Lamenting the English proficiency in Hong Kong has become a sort of national sport. The Chinese proficiency, in contrast, seems to garner less attention. That does not necessarily mean the situation is more satisfactory in Chinese. Compared to the mainland and Taiwan, my impression is that Hong Kong students are much inferior in the use of Chinese.

When I was in Beijing last October, I found this lady shopkeeper sitting on the sidewalk outside her store reading. It was not a big book, but it was all words and seemed to contain no pictures. I challenge you to find a young shopkeeper in Hong Kong reading anything other than comics, gossip, or trendy magazines.

When I was in DingXi, Gansu this January, the driver of our minivan was reading “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”(三國演義). It was the original literal version, not the abridged or comics version. And he had read it three times already. I challenge you to find a minibus or taxi driver in Hong Kong reading 三國演義. There are probably not that many professors in Hong Kong who have read it three times!

Hong Kong people, and not just students, talk a lot. But we rarely read. Except gossip, of course. Not just in English, but also in Chinese.

It is a rare person/machine/system that can keep on generating output without a way to replenish itself by taking input. But we HongKongers seem to thrive in it. Or do we? Perhaps much of the output is just hot air!


an old friend said...

Years ago, it was common in my working team to share books. But all of them were comics, particularly, Japanese comics. We practically have a small library in our office. At that time, Harry Potter has just started to be known, I recommended the book to my colleagues for a change (most of them are graduates). I took the book one to work one day and would like to share it to anyone who was interested. I told them the book was very easy and they should have no need to refer to the dictionary. One of the colleagues took the courage to borrow the book. After a few weeks, he gave up and returned the book to me and said he didn't even get beyond chapter one. So I also gave up on sharing with them anything more sophisticated than the comics.

StephenC said...

I assume this place that you mentioned was in Hong Kong. And it does not surprise me at all.

I have quite a number of adult friends who read extensively. But very few of my younger friends do.

an old friend said...

yes, it was in Hong Kong. And they were in their mid 20's to early 30's.