There seems to be an unspoken but prevalent view among Hong Kong’s policy makers that the majority of our students cannot master two languages. Hence these students must concentrate on studying in Chinese, and then try to learn a bit of English on the side.
That’s a condescending and even hypocritical attitude. Most students are capable of learning two languages, even language as diverse as Chinese and English, if they are given the proper environment. There is plenty of evidence, even among our own children, of such success. And certainly most of our elevated officials’ own children are bilingual, having gone through elite local primary schools, been sent to the UK for high school and then on to university on tax-payers’ money.
Children learn languages best when they are very young. The later that they start, the harder it becomes.
And what do our young people spend their time on? TV (at least 3 hours each day on average, I heard). Inane comics and computer games. Listening to pretty singers who cannot sing. Watching pretty actors and actresses who cannot act. Some of them are not even that pretty.
We, as parents, let them. And then we turn around and lament that our children are not interested in studying; speak poor Chinese and worse English (or is it the other way round?)
If those hours of watching TV and playing computer games are spent reading, e.g., books such as A Long Way Gone, they would have known that life is not always easy, being able to study in a comfortable environment is not something to be taken for granted (some kids are forced to be child soldiers, to torture others, and to kill), and a lot more - and they would speak and use much better English as well as Chinese.
Do we have the will to help our children learn? Do we have the courage to provide them with the environment they need to succeed?