Sunday, May 22, 2022

English Language Getting Left Out in Hong Kong

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Day after day, it becomes more apparent Hong Kong’s supposed bilingual society is not being carried out, with the government one of the worst offenders.

We all know, I presume, that Traditional Chinese and English are the official languages in Hong Kong. We see the street names, MTR station labels, and public transport signs, among others, are displayed in both English and Chinese text.

Yet, such protocol, if ever there was such one, is no longer being practiced religiously.

For example, advertisements in the MTR visible to passengers waiting for the train are often displayed in the Chinese language. These offers may be more interesting to Chinese consumers and probably reduces the advertising costs if it were rendered in monolingual medium.

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But discrimination is more apparent when you enter the trains. Inside the carriages, fare promotions on stickers placed on glass windows and walls are often displayed in Traditional Chinese as though the offers are exclusively available to those who can read, and follow the guidelines, written in Chinese.

Shoppers at big-name supermarket chains are also not spared. Occasionally, vegetable labels have Chinese names only, along with the price tags. If you wish to verify that the price matches the cashier’s and the price tag, it’s difficult to check because receipts are printed in the Chinese language.

Perhaps the way the government has been behaving emboldened these corporations into abandoning the pledge to have their messages understood by most people in Hong Kong, majority and minority of the population. Looking at election-related information, from banners on the streets to candidate information mailed to our inboxes, the practice is to send all in Chinese has been going on for years.

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There are many other examples we can cite, but I believe the point has been made.

Remind us again of the slogan Hong Kong is trying to spread in its underwhelming approach to become a global brand?

If there is one positive side we can pick from it, it’s perhaps to embrace Chinese and be more motivated to learn or master this as another language.

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