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Teaching and Learning English - Second Language

            As a former British colony, Honk Kong was said to be have a more favorable environment for English learning. However, it seems that English is more like a foreign language than a second language in Hong Kong, unlike other British colonies. It is due to the relatively homogeneous Chinese population, contrasting with the ethnic heterogeneity and linguistic diversity of the others, e.g. Malaysia and Singapore. (Choi, 2008) In the latter cases, English is the official language to bond different ethnic groups together, whereas with the homogeneous nature of Hong Kong population, Chinese can already serve the basic communication for the grassroots. .
             Language is learnt through the process of intake. Learners transfer the input into an interlanguage system with the interference of L1, to associate its acquired knowledge with their learned knowledge. (Cook, 2001) Therefore, Hong Kong students learn English by associating Chinese with English. Language, other than serving communicative purpose, also determines how people think and behave, i.e. Linguistic Determinism, so Chinese English Learners will have to change their mindset while expressing abstract concepts, due to the different context, making it more difficult for beginners (SCMP, 2002, November 2). Other than the way language is learnt, how English is taught in Hong Kong also contributes to the phenomenon. Firstly, errors should be handled carefully. Teachers should not neglect students' errors, or point them out directly immediately, embarrassing the students. Most importantly, errors should not be merely pointed out. Instead, teachers should rephrase the sentence, to let the students learn from imitation. (Hedge, 2000; Lightbown & Spata, 2006) Also, interaction is one of the important elements in classroom teaching. It not only provides the chances for students' to practice their oral skills, but also to exchange ideas and get feedback from teachers and peers.

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