Bilingualism in teaching English
Hong Kong is an officially bilingual territory. It is primarily a Cantonese speaking region, although it had been a British colony for over 150 years. About 98% of its population is virtually speakers of Chinese. However, English becomes more important as it is an international language and the official language in most countries. There has been a growing concern within the community over the need for a more concerted approach to improving the language competencies of our students to ensure that Hong Kong remains a truly cosmopolitan city.
Because of the historical background, HK use bilingualism to conduct teaching, which means both Chinese and English. According to the subject targets by Education department of English Language Curriculum Guide of EDB, we need to develop their English Language proficiency, enhance their personal and intellectual development and extend their understanding of other cultures through English. In order to fulfill the requirement of EDB, teachers are guided to teach them languages under different policy so as to enrich students’ language learning.
In the process of learning language, different situations happen during language acquisition. Some students may learn better while some cannot handle at all. Actually, there are four types of bilingualism that occur during language acquisition. They are additive, subtractive, replacive and preparatory.
Additive bilingualism means learner can have ability to use both mother tongue and second language well with balance without any loss in proficiency in either one language. Subtractive bilingualism takes place when the mother tongue is gradually lost or submerged as the learner is in a situation where the mother tongue is not used at all and learner is failing in L2 instruction. Learner fails in handling both languages. In replacive bilingualism the learner has done well in L2 but loses competence in L1 as a result. In preparatory bilingualism, the learner has done well in L1 and has learned L2 as a subject, and is now ready for more intensive L2 experience.
In HK school setting, primary schools include government schools, aided schools, Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) schools while secondary school include the above school types mentioned in primary school and private schools.
Since most primary and secondary schools are aided. The language mostly use in aided schools are mainly Chinese. It is because most students are local HK citizens. The first language they have learnt is Cantonese which is their mother tongue language. Therefore, most subjects are taught in Cantonese besides English and Putonghua lesson.
For aided school, one of the examples is Heep Yunn Primary School. This is a band one primary school in Kowloon. Even students use Cantonese in learning most subjects besides English and Putonghua, the results of students have shown that they have the ability to learn well either in English or Chinese. In this case, as mentioned above, additive bilingualism appears in this school as learners can have the ability to use both mother tongue and second language well with balance without any loss in proficiency in either one language.
However, not all aided school use Cantonese to teach all subjects . Another example of aided school is Ho Sau Kei Primary School in Tuen Mun. This school is so special that there are different nationalities’ students studying there although it is an aided school. Besides local students, some students are from Pakistan, Nepal, Mainland China and Indian. They are actually minorities in HK. Their mother tongues mostly are not Chinese and therefore their L2 acquisition is English or even Chinese instead. We need to use English to communicate with the students as teachers do not know their own countries’ language. However, when learning English, they have big problem in understanding as most of them do not have good basic foundation to get in touch...
References: Bauer, R.S. (1984). The Hong Kong Cantonese speech community.
Language Learning and Communication, 3(3), 243-414.
Curriculum Development Council (2004) CDC English Language Curriculum Guide (P1-P6) Chapter 1, Chapter 2
Curriculum Development Council (2003)Action Plan to Raise Language Standards in Hong Kong
Lin, A. M. Y.(1997), `Analysing the "Language Problem" Discourses in Hong Kong:
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