Sunday, 9 January 2011

Hong Kong English

There's different kinds of English spoken in Hong Kong.

The ones who went to British schools or taught exclusively by British teachers during the colonial era still retain a strong English accent. The upper-crust sounding David Tang is case in point.

Then there are those in my generation who went overseas to other countries like the United States, Canada and Australia.

And then there are the ones who never left Hong Kong, weren't able to get into university or didn't have any post secondary education and have an elementary level of English.

That is Hong Kong English, or Chinglish in the territory's context, as there's also mainland Chinese English.

In Hong Kong, some letters of the alphabet are pronounced differently, particularly on the phone when spelling things out. The letter "S" is not an s-sound, but pronounced (the letter "S") with "ee" attached at the end of it.

The letter "L" is "L-oh", and X is pronounced "X-ee". The letter "F" is "F-foo"

During a recent dinner, a friend of mine told us she went to an apartment complex she'd never been in before and was wondering which elevator to take to get to block L, on the 23rd floor.

She asked the security guard in Cantonese, "Where is 23L?"

He replied there was no 23L.

She couldn't understand how there couldn't be a 23L and asked again, showing him the piece of paper with the address written on it.

"Oh!" he said. "You mean 23 L-oh. Take the lift over there."

We all laughed at her little incident and bemoaned the fact that many young Hong Kongers today don't have good Chinese or English skills anymore.

Then the topic was changed to a mutual friend whose sons are very smart and grew up in the States and became FBI agents who tote guns around.

"They actually point their guns and say, 'F-B-I!'" she said.

I said, "Not F-B-I, but F-foo-B-I."


  1. every different locale has its own accent. the english got their cockney, australian there exaggerated cockney, singaporean their high tail end. a good laugh for 'my fair lady'. in china there are thousands of dialects. there are bound to be lots of laughter like this kind. makes life more interesting. a good way to strike up a conversation. good for human communication.

  2. Your story reminds me of an anecdote my father used to tell me when I was young. He was imitating the recital of the English alphabet of a friend newly arrived from China. When he reach the letter R, my father went, "Ah-roo!" and laughed so much, he couldn't continue.