In Hong Kong, around 2 million people live in … or on ... public housing estates like this one (Kin Ming Estate, Tseung Kwan O). But which is it? Do they live IN estates or ON estates? What is the difference?
Last week (8 June), the South China Morning Post published two articles about the use of English in government: "Official use of English being 'neglected' by Hong Kong government” and “The Hong Kong Government’s Language Barrier”. Each of them raised the question of whether government officials are deliberately ignoring or sidelining English, thus contributing to steadily declining English standards in the government.
Cygnet has been providing English editing, copywriting and training services to various government departments for many years. Based on our experience, I think it is certainly the case that many government figures — and departments — are failing to lead by example. But while some commentators are quick to give this a political slant, we should not forget that maintaining a high level of proficiency in English among non-native speakers is not easy. In my view, a significant part of the problem is the fact that the government does not have any consistent formal support framework for sustaining the use of confident, accurate English across the Civil Service.
Recently, after I had edited a document for a client, the client got back to me to tell me that they had decided to replace all uses of the word choose in the document with the word select. I didn’t ask for the reason, but I suspect there was a feeling that select is slightly more formal and business-like than choose.
But wait a minute — are choose and select really equivalent?
Today’s blog post is about a curious feature of Hong Kong English — “know more” — that is increasingly commonly used to encourage you to click on a hyperlink. You can see it in the first image above performing this job. By contrast, in the second image it is part of the title of a food safety campaign.
About this blog
This blog arises from keeping an eye on English in Hong Kong. I often use signs, notices and advertisements that I see as starting points to write about English issues that commonly challenge Hong Kong writers.