Firms must do right by English

Education | Michael Chugani 12 Jul 2018

In my previous column I said senior government officials should take a cue from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor who has promised to answer English questions from reporters. The expression "take a cue from" means to follow the example of or to be strongly influenced by someone or something. Not only senior government officials should take a cue from the chief executive. Other people should do it too. Even large companies in Hong Kong don't give a damn about English anymore. If you say you "don't give a damn," it means you don't care about something. The MTR manages the building where I live in Tseung Kwan O. Whenever the MTR sends out notices about the building, they are only in Chinese.

I received such a notice in my mailbox last week. I have no clue what it says because it is all in Chinese. If you say you have no clue about something, it means you are totally unable to understand or even guess what something is about. I have no clue about what the MTR notice says because I don't know how to read or write Chinese. The MTR is a huge (very big) company that provides train services, builds large housing projects, and manages buildings. How can it only send out notices in Chinese to residents of the buildings it manages? Does it not understand that some residents cannot read Chinese?

Last week, I received my electricity bill from CLP Power. The bill included a leaflet about renewable energy. A leaflet is a printed sheet of paper containing information or advertising. The CLP leaflet I received was in Chinese with just a few words in English. How can I learn more about renewable energy if I have no clue about what the leaflet says? CLP provides electricity to Kowloon, the New Territories, and Lantau. But it doesn't give a damn about providing information in English. Wellcome and Market Place supermarkets are owned by Jardines but they always use Chinese for their receipts when customers pay. I have complained many times but they don't give a damn. English is dying in Hong Kong.

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