Towards 'biliteracy and trilingualism' in Hong Kong (SAR): Problems, dilemmas and stakeholders' views

Chor Shing David LI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government’s determination to implement the ‘mother tongue education’ policy amid strong social resistance one year after the handover, English remains a prestigious language in society. The need for Putonghua (Mandarin/Standard Chinese) is also increasing following ever-expanding trade and other activities with mainland China. The societal demand for both English and Putonghua in postcolonial Hong Kong is important for understanding the SAR government’s language-in-education policy called ‘biliteracy and trilingualism’. The learning of English is fraught with two main problems: (a) the absence of a conducive language-learning environment outside the classroom, which makes English in Hong Kong more like a foreign than a second language, and (b) tremendous typological difference between Chinese and English on one hand, and considerable linguistic differences between Cantonese and Putonghua on the other. Given the significant phonological differences and, to a lesser extent, lexico-grammatical divergence between the majority’s vernacular and modern written Chinese, the learning of Putonghua is no straightforward task either. The dilemmas of the medium-of-instruction (MoI) debate will be discussed by elucidating the main concerns as seen from the respective vantage points of the government and five key stakeholder groups: employers, parents, school principals, teachers and educationalists, and students. Copyright © 2009 John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-84
JournalAILA Review
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Li, D. C. S. (2009). Towards 'biliteracy and trilingualism' in Hong Kong (SAR): Problems, dilemmas and stakeholders' views. AILA Review, 22, 72-84.


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