Professional communicative competences: Four key industries in Hong Kong

Winnie Cheng

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


As a result of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China on 1 July 1997, the government of Hong Kong SAR has changed its language policy to 'develop a civil service which is biliterate in English and Chinese and trilingual in English, Cantonese and Putonghua' (Bolton 2002, 35). Starting in the 1998 school year, over 70 percent of the government and government-aided secondary schools in Hong Kong were required to adopt mother-tongue (Cantonese) teaching. English, however, is still preferred as the medium of instruction by many people and still enjoys a higher status as the working language of commerce and business in Hong Kong (Evans and Green 2003). Business and professional communication in English is essential to Hong Kong. The importance of this communication is supported by the Hong Kong Workplace English Campaign (WEC) launched by the government in 2000. WEC helps increase people's awareness of the importance of English proficiency in the workplace and enhances business English skills among personnel working in key sectors of the local economy (SCOLAR 2005a). WEC aims to cover all work sectors where English communication skills are important, for example, tourism, retail, trading, banking and finance (SCOLAR 2005b). In the case of tourism, although the employment figure as of December 2005 is not large (28,400), tourism promotes other sectors such as retail, business services and catering. Trading, banking and finance have a combined workforce of 626,700 (Census and Statistics Department 2006a). The importance of trading is underscored by its human resources (510,400) and the increase in communication demand due to globalization. From the perspective of the gross domestic product (GDP), two kinds of service contribute substantially to economic activities, at 27.5 percent and 21.3 percent respectively. The first kind is made up of wholesale, retail, import and export trades, restaurants and hotels; and the second is finance insurance, real estate, and business service (Census and Statistics Department 2006b). Research studies have been conducted to analyze different business discourses in Hong Kong, all of which, in one way or another, contribute to our understanding of competent professional communication in Hong Kong. Examples of these studies are the metadiscourse in the letters of CEOs (Hyland 1998); the impact of culture and language use on topic management strategies and turn-taking behaviour (Du-Babcock 2006); the exploitation of linguistic resources in network marketing directors' messages to construct realities and identities (Kong 2001); the use of accounts as a politeness strategy in internal email in a business firm in Hong Kong (Kong 2006); the impact of the new media on the discourse structure of online sales letters (Cheung 2006); cultural preferences for rhetorical patterns in business writing (Cheng and Mok 2006); the use of pragmatic speech acts of disagreement, giving an opinion and checking understanding, and discourse intonation in a corpus of business discourse (Cheng and Warren 2005a, 2005b, 2006); the discourse of check-out service encounters in a hotel (Cheng 2004); the structure and language of tax computation letters written by accountants (Flowderdew and Wan 2006); and business and legal discourse (Bhatia 2005; Bhatia et al. 2008). However, no studies have been conducted to ascertain the nature and components of communicative competences in professional and business contexts in Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProfessional Communication
Subtitle of host publicationCollaboration between Academics and Practitioners
PublisherHong Kong University Press, HKU
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9789622099654
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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