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Sept 9: Public Talk – Poor English: Why Should Hong Kong Care?

JMSC Honorary Lecturer, Barry Kalb, will be talking about the importance of writing in good English at the Special Collections, 1/F, Main Library on Thursday, September 9.

China has become a major player in global business, and Hong Kong and its people are a major factor in the Chinese economy. Yet Hong Kong’s grasp of English, the international language of commerce, is embarrassingly poor. Kalb will discuss the situation and what is needed to rectify it.

Barry Kalb teaches reporting and news writing at the JMSC. His work with hundreds of Chinese from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia has given him an insight into the problems native Chinese speakers encounter when trying to write English.

Kalb started his journalism career in Washington, D.C. He was a CBS NEWS correspondent in Hong Kong, then joined TIME Magazine as Eastern Europe bureau chief, and later moved to Rome, New York and back to Hong Kong. He served as an editor in the Voice of America’s Hong Kong bureau from 2002 to 2007.

“The title of my talk, Poor English: Why Should Hong Kong Care? is purposely provocative,” said Kalb. “I chose it because I want to get people’s attention. Hong Kong’s English is bad, and I’m hardly the only one to point this out. Legislative Councilor Regina Ip has written about it. Albert Cheng, the political commentator, wrote about the level of English among Hong Kong students in the South China Morning Post just recently. ‘The standard of English among local students,’ Cheng wrote, ‘is simply atrocious.’”

“The problem is not just limited to students, though. Bad English is seen in the pronouncements of many of our politicians and government leaders, and the leaders of our large corporations. It’s seen in announcements and advertisements in the English-language newspapers. It’s seen on the English-language websites of the Hong Kong government, the Chinese central government, our local political parties, and many others.”

Speaker: Mr Barry Kalb, Honorary Lecturer, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, HKU
Moderator: Professor Ying Chan, Director, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, HKU
Date: Thursday 9 September 2010
Venue: Special Collections, 1/F, Main Library, HKU
Time: 7:15-9:00 pm
Language: English

Kalb’s talk draws from his book, You Can Write Better English, which was published recently by HKU Press. It is available in major book stores and can also be ordered online from HKU Press.