Hongkongers maintain strong self-assessed proficiency in English and Putonghua, survey indicates


17th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) A substantial segment of Hong Kong’s population feels confident in their command of both English and Putonghua for everyday communication, recent data from the Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics suggests. Compiled by the Statistics Department, the findings derive from a comprehensive survey that spanned September through December 2021, focusing on the linguistic capabilities of local residents aged between six and sixty-five, foreign domestic helpers exempted.

The survey, capturing a representative sample of approximately 5.44 million individuals within the specified age bracket for 2021, illuminates the self-assessed proficiency levels in both spoken and written forms of Chinese and English across the metropolis.

An intriguing pattern emerged when comparing the self-reported linguistic competence among economically active citizens to their less economically engaged counterparts. Approximately 45.9% of the workforce felt their spoken English was up to par for daily interactions, while 41.7% expressed similar confidence in their spoken Putonghua. These figures contrast slightly with the 39.6% and 41% of economically inactive citizens who felt adequately equipped in English and Putonghua, respectively.

In the realm of professional development, the survey uncovered a subtle shift in attitudes toward language learning. Among working-age Hongkongers, 20.5% recognised the value of enhancing their fluency in Cantonese, English, or Putonghua in the context of their vocations—a noticeable decline from the 25.4% who shared this sentiment in 2018.

When it comes to prioritising which language to master further, a striking 70.9% of respondents highlighted English as their top choice, with Putonghua trailing at 26%, and Cantonese at a mere 3.1%. This preference starkly emphasises the perceived importance of English in the global business environment and international affairs.

The necessity to improve written language skills also seems to be on a downward trajectory, with just 11.2% considering it essential for their professional life, a drop from 24.1% reported in 2018.

Despite these trends towards English and Putonghua, Cantonese steadfastly remains the linguistic mainstay within domestic settings. An overwhelming 92.3% of Hong Kong residents predominantly use Cantonese at home, maintaining its status as the cornerstone of local culture and daily life. English and Putonghua are used at home by 2.1% of the population, respectively, reflecting the city’s diverse linguistic landscape.