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July 2011

It’s Pierce Lam again

Is he upset about something? 

We must smash the hoax that English is indispensable for success in HK

South China Morning Post, Wednesday July 27 2011

Sam Wong rightly observes that the city's middle class is generally against English Schools Foundation subvention ('Government must end ESF subsidy', July 21). Opposite opinions in the debate expose prejudice and insecurity.

Reuben Tuck ('English has always been an integral part of Hong Kong's international trade', July 20) claimed that the city 'was built, from the beginning, on international trade, much of it British and most conducted in English'.

A 1908 document of the colonial office held that the opium trade was Hong Kong's “raison d’être, and was controlled by a few large trading firms with strong political support in the United Kingdom. To interfere with their activities would have threatened the very foundations of the colony.”

Like opium, the English language isn't indispensable. Long after English recedes to its rightful place as a minority language in Hong Kong, the city without 'native English' pretending as the language of masters will continue to be multiracial, welcoming foreigners on reciprocal terms.

Mr Tuck mistook Cynthia Sze's caution against overplaying the importance of the English language as a call to remove foreigners ('If English is so important, firms should move to Belfast or Glasgow', July 15). He failed to realise that many expatriates don't enjoy speaking English and that those with substantive abilities don't need English to excel. Only those with English-speaking skills as their only specialty are afraid of the call to de-emphasise English.

Uncompetitive expatriates need subsidised education. They hardly pay any tax. Expatriates who pay tax should consider the levy as payment for the right to work, just like America's worldwide tax which offshore residents pay for the right to live in the US, and not for any exclusive right.

Mr Tuck referred to Amy Ho, a recruitment specialist who urges the city to employ downsized western banks' redundancies ('Making Hong Kong a home for talent', July 15).

Why are we supposedly deficient of banking talents and in need of sourcing downsized ex-bankers from the breeding grounds of financial upheavals, despite our internationally acclaimed students and universities, and the long history of major international banks' operations in the city?

To become a real international financial centre like Switzerland, we must develop our own financial institutions based on the natural strengths of local talents and smash the hoax that the English language is indispensable for success in all endeavours.

Pierce Lam, Central

So many things to love about a letter written in English to an English language newspaper by someone who uses an English name…  random historical references, absurd generalizations and the rather splendid idea that multi-lingual Switzerland should be our role model.