The Importance of English in the professional world.

In today's global economy, English is the most important language for communication worldwide. Its over ten years since Hong Kong was returned to the mainland, so is English is still as important in the workplace here or has it been supplanted by Putonghua or perhaps a move towards using Cantonese more? It seems that English is in-fact growing in importance rather than the other languages taking over.

Findings of a recent Hong Kong Polytechnic University Research Survey of over 2,000 professionals in Hong Kong found that "English continues to be the default medium of written communication in the workplace" and that "the text types that professionals read and write most frequently in English are email messages, reports, letters and memos (HK Polytechnic University Press Release, 13th November 2008)."

The study was jointly conducted by Dr. Stephen Evans and Prof. Winnie Cheng of the PolyU's Research Centre for Professional Communication in English (RCPCE). The majority of the survey respondents were Chinese degree holders in middle or senior management with at least six years of working experience.

Dr. Evans also stated that "(spoken) English continues to play an important role in formal meetings, conferences, seminars and presentations" (HK Polytechnic University Press Release, 13th November 2008). It is also commonly used as the language in job interviews, especially for more senior posts with multi national companies (MNC's) or government organisations (HKE).

Dr. Evans went on to say that "the evidence suggested that English has increased in importance in the eleven years since 1997" (HK Polytechnic University Press Release, 13th November 2008). Over 90 percent of the respondents said that spoken and written English were just "as important as ever". This is is stark contrast to the commonly held view that Putonghua has supplanted the importance of English.

It could not be a better time to start to improve your business English skills. Since English is so important in the workplace and for career advancement, the best way is to take a one-to-one English course to gain confidence in speaking as well as improve your English business writing skills.


HK Polytechnic University Press Release, 13th November 2008 (Communications and Public Affairs Office, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong).

HKE - HKEnglish observations