Is There a Danger That English, as the Medium of International University Instruction and of Academic Technology and Publishing, Will Play an Increasingly Elitist Role in the Field of Education?

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Introduction

As the technology improves, it shrinks the borders among different regions and brings the world closer together with no hindrance. Under the effect of globalization, interpersonal communication is facilitated. And English becomes the common language over the world. In the 2000s, the number of English speakers worldwide increase to over 1800 millions. The European Union reports that almost half of Western Europeans speak conversational English. From a 2012 article in English Today by Bolton and Graddol, states that around 400 million people in China are currently learning English.

English seems to be dominating in different areas, including technology, education and publishing.

On the aspect of Science and Technology, English has been a common language in the scientific world. 98% of German physicists claim English as their working language. They are closely followed by chemists (83%), biologists (81%) and psychologists (81%). To exchange with other scientists from other countries, English always be used in the field of science. Also, the Science Citation Index reports that over 95% of all of its documents are English documents. The Internet also plays a role in making English become the dominant language in the world. By far, the majority of online resources are written in English. And most forums are frequented by people who can speak English, so it means that sharing of ideas online is more accessible to those who can read and write in English.

English has been the predominant language in the publishing industry. This makes its dominance of translations has increased, so English has a much better chance of translation than those writing in other language. When English represented about a quarter of the world publishing market in the early 1960’s, the percentage of English in translations was already 40%. And journalists and writers around the world are finding a good command of English to be an increasingly useful skill.

English also opens doors in the academic world. Many Western universities are becoming highly international, with visiting scholars, students and professors from all around the world, and their common working language is English.

English is becoming the global lingua franca. So, how is the situation in Hong Kong?

The situation of English using in Hong Kong

Since Hong Kong’s role as former British colony, people often arrive to Hong Kong with high expectations about the level of English, and English seems to be the second language in Hong Kong.

According to the Basic Law, English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong, so all the official signs and announcements are in both Cantonese and English. During the British colonial era, English was the sole official language of Hong Kong. Since the handover, the Hong Kong government has adopted the “biliterate and trilingual” policy. Under this policy, Cantonese and English are both acknowledged as the official language of Hong Kong.

So English is a major working language in Hong Kong, and is widely used in commercial activities and legal matters. People from all walks of life, from the government officials to taxi drivers, are required to have a communicative level of English. Especially for the places in the main tourist areas, such as Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay and Wanchai, shop assistants, restaurant workers and hotel staff are competent in English. Menus in the restaurants in these areas are provided with English. As tourism is one of the important industries in Hong Kong, English has been applied on many working areas in Hong Kong.

Due to the British colonial background, only English was the official language before 1974. Although Cantonese and English are both well-recognized, English is still universally seen as the prestige language. Hong Kong students were forced to learn English in primary and use English for learning different subjects in the secondary school. To implement the biliterate and...
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