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Teaching Hong Kong English before Teaching Academic English: The Gateway to Effective Learning of College Writing

Abstract: Owing to the negative view of Hong Kong English (HKE) in popular discourse, few English lecturers in Hong Kong universities directly acknowledge or discuss the variety in a non-linguistic course. This paper illustrates an action research study of how HKE may play a role in an academic writing course of a sub-degree program in Hong Kong. Focusing on 8 representatives from an academic writing course with 100 students, it employed the qualitative experiment method to examine whether students who had possessed basic linguistic knowledge of HKE from an additional tutorial would perceive HKE and academic writing differently from those who had not. Student representatives from each group were invited to a focus group to explore ideas about the two subjects discussed in class. Their conversations suggested that prior knowledge of the syntactic features of HKE might raise students’ awareness of the grammatical differences between the variety and the standard. The analysis also suggested that introducing the linguistic view of HKE to students might render them optimistic about their variety, helping them identify the situations where the variety would be tolerant of and settings where Standard English would be expected. The study suggested that such an intervention might facilitate students’ learning of Standard English for academic purposes and practices of English in actual professional communication. Upon the improvement or advancement, they will position themselves more powerfully in the dichotomy between the standard and non-standard. More formal research on a similar or relevant topic is required to validate the impact of understanding HKE on learning academic writing.
Keywords: tolerant / variety / writing / Course / academic English / linguistic / Kong / Hong / Hke

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