Monday, 28 January 2013

Critic speaking the language of denial

My letter posted in South China Morning Post, Jan 26th...
Critic speaking the language of denial
Vaughan Rapatahana wonders why there is a fixation with "proficiency in English" ("Why this fixation with English?" January 21).
He is "flummoxed" by the assumption, which he claims is "without one iota of evidence, one shred of logic, or one scintilla of statistic [sic]". Well, here is some evidence: 80 to 90 per cent of scientific papers are in English, according toScience magazine, up from 60 per cent in the 1980s. Do we wish our students to cut themselves off from the growing majority of scientific knowledge accessible only in English? The students at the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University certainly don't think so, as studies in those universities indicate the importance their students place on knowledge of English - sufficient to learn from those papers.
In trade, English is pre- eminent to an even greater degree. Do we wish to close ourselves off from a main source of our income?
Of course , it's not a matter of knowing only English. It's a matter of being bilingual or multilingual in today's world and one of those languages must be English. There is adequate "evidence, logic and statistics" available to prove this by a simple internet search.
To deny it would be to deny Hong Kong one of its critical advantages and consign us to a backwater.
Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay

Related: "How language shapes the mind", SCMP, 5 June 2011