Thu, Oct 31, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Elevator, not lift

In Hong Kong, more and more parents are opting for ‘American accent’ schools, which they believe can take their children to the top

By Peter Hutchison  /  AFP, Hong Kong

Acting Head of English at Hong Kong’s City University, Dr Rodney Jones, told AFP: “There’s no doubt that the American accent is becoming more prevalent here. The main reason is because people are more exposed to it.

“In the past in Hong Kong there was a sense that speaking in a British accent made you sound more educated.

“Now I think that’s changing and perhaps people think speaking in an American accent may have more ‘cultural capital.’ That is it may make you sound more contemporary, or modern, or may fit in with the international business world better.”

Word seems to be spreading to mainland China.

Tim Laubach — the founder of American English Workshop — has increased the number of teachers at his school from one to eight since opening a year ago, to meet rising demand from across the border.

“We have noticed a large influx of mainland Chinese students,” he said.

“When we first opened last year we had zero students from the mainland but now at least 30 percent are from there. We expect that number to continue to grow.”

Back at Nature EQ, founder and co-owner Frankie Ng is delighted with his school’s progress.

“At first I had a very hard time, nobody was coming. But now it seems I am on the right track,” the 65-year-old told AFP, the shelves in his office displaying models of America’s Bald Eagle.

“The sound of the American accent English is so defined and clear and easy to teach.”

But it would be premature to sound the death knell for the British accent just yet.

“I prefer the British accent. Sometimes I can’t understand an American one,” Riven Chan, a 28-year-old flight attendant, said.

“I think it’s better if Hong Kong people learn to speak English with a British or local accent.”

According to Jones at City University, Hong Kongers’ fondness for the United Kingdom means a British accent will remain popular.

“Many people here are nostalgic about the British,” he said.

“I don’t think they think of things like imperialism or colonialism when they hear a British accent.

“It still has a lot of prestige in Hong Kong and the bottom line is whatever accent you speak in, it has no actual reflection on your English proficiency or intelligence.”

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