Hong Kong English

Hong Kong English
Traditional Chinese港式英文
Simplified Chinese港式英文

Hong Kong English (Chinese: 港式英文) is the dialect of the English language most commonly used in Hong Kong. The dialect is a result of Hong Kong's British overseas territory history and the influence of native Cantonese speakers.

Being a former British colony, Hong Kong predominantly uses British spellings. Pronunciations and words are also predominantly British[citation needed], although influences from American, Canadian and Australian English do exist as a result of Hollywood movies, TV and Internet culture.[1] In fact, a lot of Hong Kong Chinese families migrated to (in alphabetical order) Australia, Canada,[2] Ireland, New Zealand and the United States in the 1990s after Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in mainland China, and when they move back they are less likely to use British English. There is also an influence from the significant non-Chinese demographic (e.g., expats and maids). The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority accepts "all varieties of English" as "[e]xaminers come from many different places."[3] According to article 9 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, "English may also be used as an official language" but the law does not specify which type of English.

Cantonese English, locally referred to as Chinglish, in theory, refers to the accent and characteristics of English spoken by native Hong Kongers and other Cantonese people. Overall, it is primarily spoken by native Hong Kong language (Cantonese) speakers. Therefore, although it is called Hong Kong English, it is not only spoken in Hong Kong. People who come from Macau, Guangzhou, or whose first language is Cantonese speak it.

Background

English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong, and is used widely in the Government, academic circles, business and the courts. All road and government signs are bilingual and English is as equally valid as Chinese in legal and business standings. English is what distinguished most and those who spoke English or were taught English were considered the elite, meaning those able to be taught English were considered upperclassmen. This conceptualized way of thinking arose in 1984.[4] This dialect is its own category and is the standard in Hong Kong.[4]

People with higher education, past experience of living in English-speaking countries, or who constantly interact with Hong Kong's English-speaking expatriate communities, generally speak an acquired form of English. Accent and spelling preference may vary from person to person, depending on the people they have interacted with and the country they have studied in. For most ordinary local Hong Kongers however, the English spoken is generally typical of foreign language learners: Cantonese-influenced pronunciation with some acquired Received Pronunciation characteristics, and with vocabularies and sentence structure generally more formal than those of native speakers. For instance, contractions and slang are not used, and many idioms are alien to Hong Kongers because the terms pertain more to the cultures of English-speaking countries. The falling English proficiency of local English language teachers has come under criticism.[5]

Since the Handover, English in Hong Kong remains primarily a second language, in contrast to Singapore where English has been shifting toward being a first language.

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