Common grammar problems with spoken English in Hong Kong

There are many problems for Cantonese speakers of English in Hong Kong. HK SAR is now part of China proper, but Cantonese is spoken by the majority of people in Hong Kong rather than Mandarin.

Communicating in English for foreign speakers is a balance between fluency and accuracy. Many factors come into place and correct grammar is one of the major ones. This article will focus on the most common grammar problems.

By fluency I mean being able to express yourself clearly without hesitation. Fluency involves having enough vocabulary as well as confidence to speak in English. Accuracy involves using vocabulary appropriately, correct grammar as well as proper pronunciation and intonation.

Having a "British or American accent" does not really help communication but it is the ability to communicate fluently and accurately that is most important. However, as said in the introduction, it is a balance between fluency and accuracy that makes a speaker able to communicate his ideas. Some errors are tolerable and being able to express yourself confidently and fluently is sometimes considered more important that 100% accuracy.

The most common problems include:

Prepositions: Incorrect use of prepositions such as in, at, and on. For instance "I've been Hong Kong ten years".

Articles: Wrong use of articles - definite (the), indefinite (a) and zero (no article). For instance "I've been in the Hong Kong ten years".

Plurals: adding plural "s" when none exists or omitting the plural "s" when it should be there. For instance "I've been in Hong Kong for ten year".

Gerund: wrong use of the "ing" form or infinitive. For instance saying "I am boring" instead of "I am bored"., or "I am going to swimming".

Tenses: Wrong selection of a tense appropriate for the situation or incorrect construction. For instance "I been in Hong Kong ten years". A very common mistake is the misuse of the present perfect and past perfect tenses.

All of these errors can be rectified by proper analysis and coaching by a Native English Teacher.