The perception of falling standards in education, and in second language teaching in particular, has been a constant refrain for the past 20 years as changing needs and practices affect economic processes and manpower requirements.Within this context, this article deals with the establishment of language standards ('benchmarks') for teachers of English in Hong Kong. The article deals with two separate but linked notions: first, the notion of which model of the English language should be used as the standard model for English language teacher benchmark assessment in Hong Kong; second, the level of language ability that will be decided upon in order to establish the proficiency standards expected of teachers of English. The article first describes the background to the setting of language standards for teachers of English in Hong Kong. It then examines the selection of and justification for the model of English selected as the 'minimum standard'. The following section considers the level of language ability agreed upon as the standard that teachers of English need to attain. The article concludes with an examination of the extent to which the standards that have been agreed upon match the needs of the major stakeholders in the standard-setting process. Copyright © 2002 John Benjamins Publishing Company.