The 21st Century calls for a new breed of professionals who possess strong technical and people skills as some call them the ‘hybrid skills’ for this century. Communication and collaboration skills are the centre of it all. As citizens in Asia’s World City, Hong Kong people are expected to excel in communicating with non-native languages. And yet a number of research findings suggest Hong Kong has some catching up to do:
The EF EPI Survey 2021 which annually compares non-native English speakers’ proficiency from over 100 countries shows that Hong Kong ranks only 32 globally, some 28 places behind Singapore, 14 places behind The Philippines and 4 places behind Malaysia within the Asia Pacific region alone.
EF English Proficiency Index 2021 Official Website:
Published by IELTS in 2019, English speaking performance of Hong Kong students who undertake this exam is ranked 21st among the benchmarked countries, which is on par with Bangladesh and slightly behind Pakistan. Philippines and Malaysia both are both ranked at 4th.
IELTS Speaking Performance in 2019 Official Website:
Findings of a study released by HKU in 2015 indicated that 62% of the sampled residents aged 12 and above claimed they could speak English. However, the same study had estimated that only about 27% and 24% of the respondents were actually proficient i.e. being rated “quite well, well or very well” in oral and written English respectively based on objective assessments. In addition, only about 2% and 5% of the respondents were rated “very well” in both oral and written English respectively. The findings shed light on the English language gap in Hong Kong which has been an issue of concern for some time.
“Language Use, Proficiency and Attitudes in Hong Kong” published by Social Science Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong in 2015. Full research report link:
Another thematic survey conducted by Census and Statistics Department in 2018 showed more than 70% of survey respondents Hong Kong residents are more likely to self-assess their English and Putonghua speaking skills as average or below.
“Thematic Household Survey Report No.66” published by Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2018. Full research report link: