Hong Kong English

Hong Kong English
Traditional Chinese港式英文
Simplified Chinese港式英文

Hong Kong English (Chinese: 港式英文) is the dialect of the English language most commonly used in Hong Kong. The dialect is a result of Hong Kong's British overseas territory history and the influence of native Cantonese speakers.

Being a former British colony, Hong Kong predominantly uses British spellings. Pronunciations and words are also predominantly British[citation needed], although influences from American, Canadian and Australian English do exist as a result of Hollywood movies, TV and Internet culture.[1] In fact, a lot of Hong Kong Chinese families migrated to (in alphabetical order) Australia, Canada,[2] Ireland, New Zealand and the United States in the 1990s after Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in mainland China, and when they move back they are less likely to use British English. There is also an influence from the significant non-Chinese demographic (e.g., expats and maids). The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority accepts "all varieties of English" as "[e]xaminers come from many different places."[3] According to article 9 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, "English may also be used as an official language" but the law does not specify which type of English.

Cantonese English, locally referred to as Chinglish, in theory, refers to the accent and characteristics of English spoken by native Hong Kongers and other Cantonese people. Overall, it is primarily spoken by native Hong Kong language (Cantonese) speakers. Therefore, although it is called Hong Kong English, it is not only spoken in Hong Kong. People who come from Macau, Guangzhou, or whose first language is Cantonese speak it.


English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong, and is used widely in the Government, academic circles, business and the courts. All road and government signs are bilingual and English is as equally valid as Chinese in legal and business standings. English is what distinguished most and those who spoke English or were taught English were considered the elite, meaning those able to be taught English were considered upperclassmen. This conceptualized way of thinking arose in 1984.[4] This dialect is its own category and is the standard in Hong Kong.[4]

People with higher education, past experience of living in English-speaking countries, or who constantly interact with Hong Kong's English-speaking expatriate communities, generally speak an acquired form of English. Accent and spelling preference may vary from person to person, depending on the people they have interacted with and the country they have studied in. For most ordinary local Hong Kongers however, the English spoken is generally typical of foreign language learners: Cantonese-influenced pronunciation with some acquired Received Pronunciation characteristics, and with vocabularies and sentence structure generally more formal than those of native speakers. For instance, contractions and slang are not used, and many idioms are alien to Hong Kongers because the terms pertain more to the cultures of English-speaking countries. The falling English proficiency of local English language teachers has come under criticism.[5]

Since the Handover, English in Hong Kong remains primarily a second language, in contrast to Singapore where English has been shifting toward being a first language.


Thirty-five years ago, it was argued that there was no such thing as Hong Kong English,[6] but nowadays its status is much more established.[7] In the Dynamic Model of Postcolonial Englishes, it has been classified as in the third phase, that of Nativization,[8] but more recently it has been shown that many young people are happy to identify themselves as speakers of Hong Kong English, so it might be regarded as progressing into the fourth phase, that of Endonormative Stabilization.[9] Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that Hong Kong English is highly intelligible to listeners from elsewhere,[10] which helps explain why an increasing number of people are happy to be identified as speakers of this variety.[11]


Although it may be assumed that, as a result of the colonial legacy, the pronunciation of Hong Kong English was originally based on British English,[12] in fact nowadays there are many features of pronunciation derived from American English,[7] and indeed the influence of American English appears to be increasing.[13] Furthermore, there seem to be some innovative developments that are unique to Hong Kong English, such as a split in the realisation of /v/ as [f] or [w].[14] Some of the more salient features are listed below.






American/British spelling and word usage[]

This is the entrance of the shopping centre "New World Centre" in Hong Kong. Note the spelling of the word "Centre" (instead of the American English "Center") and also that it does not say "Mall", as in the US.


Hong Kong vocabulary/expressions[]

Nullah Road, Mong Kok

Some words and phrases widely understood in Hong Kong are rare or unheard of elsewhere. These often derive from Chinese, Anglo-Indian or Portuguese/Macanese.

Research is also being done on the generation of new Hong Kong English vocabulary driven by computer mediated communication between bilingual Cantonese and English speakers. Rather than using complicated Chinese character keyboard interfaces, Hong Kong English speakers will text and email English translations to the point that the English word often gains independent usage.[33]

Common differences the Cantonese-speaking community[]

See also[]

Hong Kong


  1. ^ "British or American spellings?".
  2. ^ "Number of Hongkongers migrating to Canada hits 20-year high". 2017-09-11.
  3. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions on LPAT - English Language". www.hkeaa.edu.hk.
  4. ^ a b Eoyang, Eugene Chen. "From the Imperial to the Empirical: Teaching English in Hong Kong". Profession: 62–74. JSTOR 25595704.
  5. ^ Glenwright, Phil (1 July 2005). "Grammar Error Strike Hard: Language Proficiency Testing of Hong Kong Teachers and the Four 'Noes'". Journal of Language Identity and Education. 4 (3): 201–226. doi:10.1207/s15327701jlie0403_2. ISSN 1534-8458.
  6. ^ Luke, K. K. & Richards, J. (1982). English in Hong Kong: Functions and status. English World-Wide, 3: 47-61.
  7. ^ a b c Setter, Jane; Wong, Cathy S.P.; Chan, Brian H.S. (2010). Hong Kong English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  8. ^ Schneider, E. W. (2007), Postcolonial English: Varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  9. ^ Hansen Edwards, J. G. (2015). Hong Kong English: Attitudes, identity and use. Asian Englishes, 17: 184-208.
  10. ^ Kirkpatrick, A., Deterding, D., & Wong, J. (2008). The international intelligibility of Hong Kong English. World Englishes, 27, 359–377.
  11. ^ Hansen Edwards, J. G. (2016). The politics of language and identity: Attitudes towards Hong Kong English pre- and post- the Umbrella Movement. Asian Englishes, 18(2), 157-164.
  12. ^ a b c d e Hung, T. N. (2012). Hong Kong English. In E. L. Low & Azirah Hashim (Eds.), English in Southeast Asia: Features, policy and language in use (pp. 113-133). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  13. ^ a b Chan, J. Y. H. (2013). Contextual variation in Hong Kong English. World Englishes, 32, 54-74.
  14. ^ a b c d Hung, T. N. (2007). Innovation in second language phonology. In T. Hoffmann & L. Siebers (Eds.), World Englishes: Problems, properties and prospects (pp. 227-237). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  15. ^ a b c d e Deterding, D., Wong J., & Kirkpatrick, A. (2008). The pronunciation of Hong Kong English. English World-Wide, 29, 148–149.
  16. ^ Hong, T. N. (2002). Towards a phonology of Hong Kong English. In K. Bolton (Ed.), Hong Kong English: Autonomy and creativity (pp. 119–140). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
  17. ^ a b Sewell, Andrew (2009). "World Englishes, English as a Lingua Franca, and the case of Hong Kong English". English Today. 25 (1): 37–43. doi:10.1017/S0266078409000066.
  18. ^ Hansen Edwards, J. G. (2016). Sociolinguistic variation in Asian Englishes: The case of coronal stop deletion. English World-Wide 37(2), 138-167.
  19. ^ Sewell, Andrew (2017). "Pronunciation Assessment in Asia's World City: Implications of a Lingua Franca Approach in Hong Kong". In Isaacs T. & Trofimovich P. Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Bristol: Multilingual Matters / Channel View Publications. pp. 237–255.
  20. ^ Setter, Jane (2006). "Speech Rhythm in World Englishes: The Case of Hong Kong". TESOL Quarterly. 40 (4): 763–782. doi:10.2307/40264307. JSTOR 40264307.
  21. ^ "公務員事務局".
  22. ^ "Estate Agents Authority 地產代理監管局". www.eaa.org.hk.
  23. ^ "Civil Service Bureau".
  24. ^ "Hong Kong's Best Fish and Chips". 2016-05-13.
  25. ^ 尋找完美 Fish & Chips
  26. ^ Cassell giant paperback dictionary, 1994
  27. ^ "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong".
  28. ^ Lam, Lana; Lee, Danny (2013-12-21). "Playwright pens tale of Hong Kong and its expat 'filth'". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  29. ^ "Get Jetso著數網- 全港最受歡迎的著數優惠分享平台" (in Chinese). Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  30. ^ 商務印書館. "陳君葆日記(上下冊)". www.cp1897.com.hk.
  31. ^ (okplaymayday), okplaymayday. "香港腳的由來──中國歷史上的香港腳與腳氣 @ 漫遊於歷史與現代之間 :: 痞客邦".
  32. ^ "'Singapore foot' & 'dhoby itch' were nasty ailments in 1920s Singapore". Mothership.sg.
  33. ^ "Add oil! The evolution of Hong Kong English, and where our unique words come from".
  34. ^ "「二」話要說". civicparty.hk. December 7, 2015..
  35. ^ "play gooseberry translate to Traditional Chinese". dictionary.cambridge.org.

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