_Pupils from St Margaret's Girls' College showed off their grasp of French by winning this year's French speech choral poetry competition. Photo: May Tse
Chinese and English are no longer deemed sufficient as more people seek to master additional languages
Helene Franchineau, 12 Feb 2012
For a growing number of Hongkongers,
mastering English and Putonghua just isn't enough, with more children and
adults seeking out courses in other languages.
The appetite for new tongues is a sign of the obsession with academic
excellence, as well as increased exposure to foreign languages, according to
Jean-Luc Rey, chairman of the Association of Teachers of French in Hong Kong
and Macau. French, German, Hindi, Urdu,
Japanese and Spanish are now included in the curriculum for the last three
years of secondary school, besides Cantonese, English and Putonghua.
15,000 people study French in Hong Kong,
including in primary, secondary and tertiary education, and with private
tutors, at private centres and at the Alliance Francaise - a global institute
promoting French language and culture.
is like the fourth language in Hong Kong,"
said Benoit Gaudin, the attache for linguistic affairs at the French consulate.
Henry, deputy executive manager of the Alliance Francaise says it has 6,639
students, up from 6,200 in
2004 and 6,400 in 2007.
that Mandarin and English are taught in most schools, parents are sending their
children to study another foreign language," Henry said.
Bode, head of language courses at the Goethe-Institut in Hong
Kong, which performs a similar role for German culture, pointed to
a steady upward trend of people studying German. About 4,000 students take
courses at its centre in Wan Chai.
language learning choices have long been influenced by world events. Student
numbers at the Alliance Francaise, which has centres in Wan Chai and Jordan,
peaked at 14,000 shortly after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, as
French language skills could help those looking to emigrate to Canada win
points on their visa applications.
the number of applications spiked again in 1998, when Maggie Cheung Man-yuk
married French film director Olivier Assayas.
another language on the rise, according to Dominique Chasset, director of the
Hong Kong Institute of Languages in Central. The institute has only been
offering Spanish since 2007 but it ties with Putonghua as the third most
popular course, behind English and French.
the next target for Perlie Chiu Pui-lam, already an accomplished French speaker
at the age of eight. She won a prize for poetry recital at a French speech
competition organised by the French teachers' association. The Singapore International
School student has been studying the
language at school for four years and has already put her skills to practical
use on a family holiday to Paris.
think French is easy and very interesting to learn," she said, clutching
also realising that knowing another language has benefits in a crowded job market.
image of France in Hong Kong is always linked to luxury, fashion and
culture. But more and more people have become aware that we also have about 700
French companies in Hong Kong," Gaudin