Friday, January 16, 2009

The Will to Learn

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?


Anonymous said...

One big problem, I dare say, is that most parents don't read. They read nothing else other than the daily newspapers (and the quality of local newspapers have been discussed in this blog some time ago). And yet, they expect their kids to be avid readers.

I challenge you to go to an average (?) HK household to find a bookshelf not stacked with the kid's textbooks. When I had to get bookshelves when we moved back to HK 15 years ago, I didn't have much choices other than those at IKEA. I finally designed our own bookshelves. Even today, go to furniture stores, and see how many bookshelves are displayed. TV consoles? Plenty.

Lozen LIU said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lozen LIU said...

Hi Stephen,

I found two interesting articles on the Internet, which is talking about how 60's and 70's mainland Chinese learned English~ quite interesting...