The Population In Hong Kong Education Essay

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Introduction

The population in Hong Kong has grown significantly over the past twenty years. The increase in population is largely due to South Asian people. In the 2006 census, South East Asian minorities took up about 5% of the population in Hong Kong. While Chinese people dominate the society in Hong Kong, problems with racial discrimination often occur, and the problem is getting worst as the minority population keeps increasing. A survey on general perception of the people in Hong Kong over ethnic minorities reveals that over 45% of the respondents agree that South Asian are indeed being discriminated in Hong Kong (Tang, Lam, Lam & Ngai, 2006). In addition, about 30% of South Asian students who study in local schools report that they are disliked by their teachers in a survey conducted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Ku, Chan & Sandhu, 2005). The survey also mentioned that the minorities also had quite a difficult life in Hong Kong. The Chinese people often think South Asian people talk impolitely. Since South Asians don't speak Cantonese and their L1 wouldn't be understood by the Chinese people, the only medium of communication between the two groups of people is English.

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In order to prove whether South Asian people talk impolitely, it is important to understand how they communicate with others. We will focus our research on how South Asians make requests in their everyday communication. In fact, making requests is a kind of face threatening act, the speaker will put pressure on the hearer. In order to mitigate the degree of imposition, the speaker needs to use different politeness strategies. By examining the requests made by South Asian teenagers, we can come up with an answer to our propose question. In addition, we will evaluate an interview with a school principal whose students are mostly South Asians in order to justify our findings.

Literature Review

Speech Act Theories

Speech acts are prevailing theories in pragmatics. There are many

different types of speech acts, for example, questions, requests, offers and so on. According to Austin (1975) and Searle (1976), people use languages to achieve different kinds of purposes. They believe that a variety of acts are performed in speech. For Austin (1975), he emphasizes on how speaker realize their intentions in speaking. On the other hand, Searle (1976) pays attention to the responses of hearers to utterances. There have been many speech acts studies carried out in the past, their aim is to give illocutors a clear picture on how to perform effectively in communications.

Politeness Theories

The concept of politeness was introduced by Goffman. He mentioned

about the importance of protecting the faces of both speakers and hearers (1955, 1967). Leech (1987) also highlights the elements of social power and social distance in interlocutions between the speaker and the hearer. In general, the greater distance between the two, the more tact should be employed by the speaker. The Politeness Principle has another function, that is to maintain a friendly relationship and cooperation among interlocutors. Later, Brown and Levinson (1978) introduce two concepts regarding politeness, namely positive face and negative face. Positive face is about the importance of begin accepted and admired while negative face focuses on the need to be independent with being imposed by others. Thus, speakers should try to avoid giving offense to hearers when communicating.

Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP)

Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project was initiated by

Blum-Kulka. According to Blum-Kulka (1982), request strategies in all languages consist of three levels of directness. Each level can then be further divided into nine levels of increasing indirectness. Blum-Kulka and House (1989) further investigates requesting behavior, in which the relative importance of power, social distance, situational setting and degree of imposition differ across cultures and languages. The researchers have studied American English, Canadian French, Hebrew, Argentinian, Spanish, Russian, German and Thai (Rosina 2000). As other researchers later expanded their investigation into languages like Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese. In order to explore the way of making requests by South Asian youth, our research will include analysis for both local Chinese and South Asian teenagers. One special feature about our study is that both groups of teenagers are being analyze under their L2 rather than their L1.

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The following research questions are to be examined:

Are South Asian teenagers impolite in speech?

Can South Asian teenagers employ different request strategies?

Why are South Asian people thought to be impolite in speech?

3. Methodology

3.1 Informants

The informants are 10 teenagers from two ethnic groups. With five

local Chinese students in one group and five South Asian students in another. The students in both groups aged about 14 to 18 years. The target group are composed of South Asian students coming from countries like India, Pakistan and Philippines. The personal information regard the students in the target group are shown in Table 1. The other group consists of only local Chinese students. In order to obtain validated results from our research, the students in both groups come from the same Form and similar banding schools. In addition, both groups of students are proficient L2 learners of English. Therefore, they should be able to complete the survey questions without problems.

South Asian teenagers

Age

Sex

L1

Years of learning L2

16

F

Hindi

13

16

M

Tagalog

11

17

F

Hindi

14

17

F

Nepali

14

18

F

Tagalog

15

Table 1. Background information of the students in target group.

3.2 Data Processing

This is a cross-sectional and experimental study of a group of South

Asian teenagers. The data in this experiment is collected by means of Dialogue Completion Task (DCT). DCT is one of the most widely used methods in pragmatics and it involves a series of controlled elicitation procedures. There are several advantages in using DCT in our research:

1. It helps to create 'an initial classification of semantic formulas and

strategies that will occur in natural speech.' (Beebe, as cited in Wouf, 2006, p.1460)

2. It is a less time-consuming method to collect and process data

3. It enables the researcher to collect the record of what people think they

would say.

The DCT used in this research has been modified. The twelve situations have been created based on students' experiences at school, at home and at work. Also, the modified version of DCT does not include any response of the hearer because of two reasons:

The presence of the hearer's response would somehow affect how the

participants give responses to the situation (Rintell & Mitchell, 1989).

The range of participants' responses will be limited and thus affect the validity of the research.

Since the twelve situations given in the survey are familiar contexts to the target students, they will be able to use their background knowledge to complete the survey questions. The survey was conducted in a classroom. The targeted students were given a DCT questionnaire with twelve social situations. They were given a period of thirty minutes to complete the survey without supervision.

The twelve situations in our questionnaire are designed based on the three contextual and social variables as suggested by Brown and Levinson in their politeness theory. According to Brown and Levinson (1987), 'relative power' (P), 'social distance' (D) and 'absolute ranking' (R) of imposition are the three independent variables in 'face threatening acts'. Relative power refers to the power difference between the speaker and the hearer. Social distance means whether the speaker and the hearer are close in relationship. Absolute ranking of imposition represents the severity of offence to the hearer. Politeness usually involves high P, D and R so that the action of making request will be less imposing to the hearer. In order to improve the accuracy of our research, comprehensive data from the twelve situations should be obtained. The twelve situations are listed it Table 2.

Relative Power (P)

Social Distance (D)

Absolute Ranking

of imposition (R)

equal status hearer (S = H)

+ SD

High

higher status hearer (S < H)

- SD

Low

lower status hearer (S > H)

* S refers to the speaker

* H refers to the hearer

* +SD refers to the situations where the social distance between the hearer and the speaker is far,

vice versa for -SD

* High absolute ranking means the request is very imposing and low ranking means less imposing

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Table 2. The three variables in the 12 situations.

To make the comparison and analysis more systematically, the twelve situations are grouped together when the three variables concerned are more or less the same. Then, there are six categories in total. The situations are arranged randomly so that the informants are unaware of what is expected in the research. Therefore, it is hoped that the responses can be natural and accurate. The twelve situations grouped into six categories are shown in Table 3.

Category

1

2

3

4

5

6

Situation

1

3

4

8

2

6

9

11

5

7

10

12

( P )

S=H

S=H

S=H

S=H

S<H

S<H

S<H

S<H

S>H

S>H

S>H

S>H

( D )

+SD

+SD

-SD

-SD

+SD

+SD

-SD

-SD

+SD

+SD

-SD

-SD

( R )

Low

Low

High

High

High

High

Low

High

Low

Low

High

High

Table 3. The twelve situations categorized according to the three variables.

In the questionnaire, there are four situations each for hearer with higher (S<H), lower (S>H) or equal (S=H) status as the speaker. The situations are designed with seven scenarios involving a high social distance (+SD) and five scenarios with a low social distance. Furthermore, there are six scenarios involving a high degree of imposition and another six scenarios involving low degree of imposition.

In order to find out whether South Asian teenagers are really less polite than the local Chinese students, both of their sociolinguistic and pragmalinguistic competence are evaluated. The data are analyzed according to the coding system of two different frameworks, namely (CCSARP) adopted by Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) and the 'Five Stages of L2 Request Development' suggested by Achiba (2002) and Ellis (1992). As mentioned before, our research will take the 'Five stages of L2 Request Development' into account in order to examine whether the English proficiency of the informants would affect the way they make requests. The framework of CCSARP and the 'Five Stages of L2 Request Development' are summarized in Appendix B and C.

As a way of analyzing the data obtained, the percentage is calculated with the number of cases using the specific strategy (from CCSARP) over the total number of responses in each category. In addition, mitigating devices are also analyzed in this study as they are effective tools to soften the degree of imposition. The percentage of mitigating devices used is calculated by dividing the total number of mitigating devices used in all scenarios over the total number of responses.

4. Findings

4.1 Request Strategies

Table 4 shows that all South Asian and local Chinese students all used strategy 7 when asking a stranger the way to a fast food restaurant or asking for time. Strategy 7 is usually employed to reduce the level of directness when making a request as shown in Appendix B.

Situation:

1. Ask a stranger the way to a fast food restaurant

3. Ask a strange the time

Strategy

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

%

Frequency

%

1. Mood Derivable

0

0

0

0

2.Explicit Performative

0

0

0

0

3.Hedged Performative

0

0

0

0

4.Locution Derivable

0

0

0

0

5. Want Statement

0

0

0

0

6.Suggestory Formula

0

0

0

0

7. Preparatory

10

100

10

100

8. Strong Hint

0

0

0

0

9. Mild Hint

0

0

0

0

Table 4

Tabel 5 indicates that 90% of the South Asian students use strategy 7 and 60% of the Chinese students adopt the same strategy when they need to ask their friend to borrow a pen, or they need to ask their friend for permission to use their computer. Other than strategy 7, 10% of South Asian students and 20% of Chinese students also employed strategy 1, which is the most direct strategy to make a request.

Situation:

4. Ask a friend to borrow his pen.

8. Ask a friend for permission to use his computer

Strategy

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

%

Frequency

%

1. Mood Derivable

1

10

2

20

2.Explicit Performative

0

0

0

0

3.Hedged Performative

0

0

0

0

4.Locution Derivable

0

0

0

0

5. Want Statement

0

0

0

0

6.Suggestory Formula

0

0

0

0

7. Preparatory

9

90

8

80

8. Strong Hint

0

0

0

0

9. Mild Hint

0

0

0

0

Table 5

Table 6 depicted that most students in the two groups use strategy 7 in situation 2,6 and 11. About 33.3% of the Chinese students use strategy 8, which is an indirect strategy to reduce the level of directness and the weight of imposition. In addition, there are about 6.7% of South Asian students and 13.3% Chinese students used the most direct way to make a request, or strategy 1.

Situation:

2. Ask your father for money to buy a pair of new shoes

6. Ask a teacher to help you with a math question

11. Ask the manager for a day off

Strategy

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

%

Frequency

%

1. Mood Derivable

1

6.7

2

13.3

2.Explicit Performative

0

0

0

0

3.Hedged Performative

0

0

0

0

4.Locution Derivable

0

0

0

0

5. Want Statement

2

13.3

0

0

6.Suggestory Formula

0

0

0

0

7. Preparatory

12

80

8

53.3

8. Strong Hint

0

0

5

33.3

9. Mild Hint

0

0

0

0

Table 6

Table 7 shows us that when students need to ask the class monitors to hand out workbooks, most South Asian students (80%) and Chinese students (90%) use strategy 7. However, a couple of South Asian students do prefer to use the most direct strategy to talk to their peers.

Situation:

9. Ask the class monitors to hand out workbooks

Strategy

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

%

Frequency

%

1. Mood Derivable

2

40

0

0

2.Explicit Performative

0

0

0

0

3.Hedged Performative

0

0

0

0

4.Locution Derivable

0

0

0

0

5. Want Statement

0

0

0

0

6.Suggestory Formula

0

0

0

0

7. Preparatory

3

60

5

100

8. Strong Hint

0

0

0

0

9. Mild Hint

0

0

0

0

Table 7

Table 8 represents what the students used in situation 5 and 7. All South Asian students chose to use strategy 7 while only 70% of the Chinese students use this strategy. Then, 30% of the Chinese students use strategy 1 and 5, meaning they make request more direct.

Situation:

5. Ask the store owner to get a product for a closer look

7. Ask a lower form classmate to decorate the classroom

Strategy

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

%

Frequency

%

1. Mood Derivable

0

0

2

20

2.Explicit Performative

0

0

0

0

3.Hedged Performative

0

0

0

0

4.Locution Derivable

0

0

0

0

5. Want Statement

0

0

1

10

6.Suggestory Formula

0

0

0

0

7. Preparatory

10

100

7

70

8. Strong Hint

0

0

0

0

9. Mild Hint

0

0

0

0

Table 8

Table 9 shows the results obtained in situation 10 and 12. With about 80% of the South Asian students and 70% of the Chinese students employ strategy 7. Furthermore, about 30% of the Chinese students chose to use the most direct strategies to talk to younger relatives. On the other hand, there are 20% of the South Asian students used the most direct strategy.

Situation:

10. Ask your sister to borrow her Mp3 player

12. Ask your younger cousin to borrow his digital camera

Strategy

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

%

Frequency

%

1. Mood Derivable

2

20

3

30

2.Explicit Performative

0

0

0

0

3.Hedged Performative

0

0

0

0

4.Locution Derivable

0

0

0

0

5. Want Statement

0

0

0

0

6.Suggestory Formula

0

0

0

0

7. Preparatory

8

80

7

70

8. Strong Hint

0

0

0

0

9. Mild Hint

0

0

0

0

Table 9

4.2 Mitigating Devices

Table 10 shows that interrogative is mostly used by all the South Asian and the local Chinese students. When comparing declarative and imperative, interrogative is a common syntactic form adopted by the subjects despite the different situations. The data obtained also shows the local Chinese students tend to use past tense when making a request.

Devices

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

Interrogative

104

88.1

92

76.7

Past tense

14

11.9

41

34.2

Embedded 'if' clause

1

0.9

0

0

Table 10. Syntactic Downgraders

Table 11 shows that both the South Asian and local Chinese students adopt different kinds of internal modifiers when making a request. As shown in the table, the students use grounders relatively frequent. Grounders are used to give a reason to support one's request. In addition, promises and sweeteners are occasionally used by the students to soften the degree of imposition.

Devices

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

grounder

28

23.7

49

40.8

promise

6

5.1

8

6.7

checking on availability

2

1.7

4

3.3

getting a precommitment

1

0.85

0

0

sweetener

3

2.5

7

5.8

appreciation

3

2.5

0

0

disarmer

1

0.85

4

3.3

cost minimizer

2

1.7

1

0.83

Table 11. Internal Modifiers

Table 12 shows that both groups of students employ the mitigating function 'Excuse me' when making request. They tend to use the alerter 'Excuse me' when talking to a stranger or someone with higher social power. The students also used 'Hello', 'Hi' or 'Hey' to show friendliness and in-group relationship to soften the degree of making a request.

Devices

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

Excuse me

21

17.8

30

25

Dear

0

0

1

0.83

Hello

2

1.7

1

0.83

Hi

1

0.85

0

0

Hey

21

17.8

6

5

Table 12. Alerter

Table 13 illustrates an interesting difference in the choice of request perspective. The South Asian students will focus on the role of the speaker while the local Chinese students choose to focus on the role of the hearer.

Devices

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

Hearer oriented

53

44.9

70

58.3

Speaker oriented

61

51.7

43

35.8

Speaker and hearer oriented

0

0

1

0.8

Impersonal

4

3.4

6

5

Table 13. Request Perspective

4.3 Pragmalinguistic Competence

The data in Table 14 shows that both the South Asian teenagers and local Chinese teenagers have improved their language skills because they are able to fine-tune the force of their requests. The most frequent strategy used is Stage 3 (Appendix C) is Unpacking, namely L2 learners are able to shift to the use of conventionally indirect requests. Stage 4 - Pragmatic expansion is the second most frequently used strategy for the South Asian students. Overall, the L2 learners are able to increase the use of mitigation devices.

Stage

South Asian

Local Chinese

Frequency

Percentage

Frequency

Percentage

1: Pre-basic

0

0

0

0

2: Formulaic

8

6.8

18

15

3: Unpacking

78

66.1

83

69.2

4: Pragmatic expansion

29

24.6

11

9.2

5: Fine-tuning

3

2.5

8

6.6

Table 14. Pragmalinguistic Competence according to the Five Stages of L2 Request

Development (Achiba, 2002 and Ellis, 1992)

5. Results

5.1 Similarities

5.11 Sociolinguistic Competence

Based on all the data obtained from the survey, the most commonly used

request strategy by the two groups of students is strategy 7 or 'Preparatory'. This strategy is used quite often in making a request. Our results do confirm with other studies done by Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) and Rose (2000). Also, the second most commonly used strategy type is direct strategies. Besides indirectness, the analysis will also examine other factors that has an effect on politeness when making a request.

First of all, the use of the alerter 'Excuse me' occurred quite frequently by both groups of students. According to Blum-Kulka (1989), the use of alerters can affect the social impact of the utterance. Frankly, the students are able to begin a conversation with a stranger as natural as possible. Other alerters such as 'Hello', 'Hi' or 'Hey' are also used by the students.

Second, some students were able to use grounders to soften the degree of a request. In situation 2, 8, 10, 11 and 12, both groups of students use grounders or reasons to reduce tension. According to Emondson (1981), grounders and promises indirectly modify illocutionary force and thus softening the force of a request.

Over 80% of the requests made by both groups of students are interrogatives. From which, they always used interrogative starting with modal verbs 'can' or 'could'. A typical function of modals is to add politeness in an utterance. Other interrogatives used words like 'where' and 'how'. The results agree with the study done by Francis (1977).

The use of sweetener occurred in situation 2, 6, 10, 11 and 12. Both groups of students have utilized the use of sweetener quite well, for example, one student asked his father if he was tired before asking for money to buy a new pair of shoes.

In general, the use of sweetener can help the speaker to please the hearer and therefore having a high chance of achieving the goal.

5.12 Pragmalinguistic Competence

Based on the data obtained, both groups of students were able to use the syntactic and lexical features in their utterances. Thus, they have reached the highest stage of pragmalinguistic competence according to the Five Stages of L2 Request Development suggested by Kasper and Rose (2002). In other words, the students are capable of refining when making a request (Kasper and Rose, 2002).

According to Blum-Kulka (1987), the highest ratings for politenss were granted to conventional indirect strategies. Both groups of students are polite across different designed situations since strategy 7 is widedly used. In addition, the use of modals can save face even if the hearer refuses the request as suggested by Blum-Kulka (1991). In another research done by Clark (1979) has also mentioned that the literal meaning of conventionally indirect strategies allow speakers admit a requestive intent more openly and clearly.

As mentioned earlier, the target students occasionally employ direct strategies to make a request, especially when the status between the speaker and the hearer is equal. If the students are more superior to the hearer, they will also employ direct strategies to make a request. Yet, indirectness and politeness do not necessary correlate with each other as suggested in a research done by Blum-Kulka (1989). It also means that using direct strategies to make a request might not be impolite as long as the social distance between the speaker and the hearer is low or equal. In other words, the interlocutors are close in relationship.

5.2 Differences

5.21 Sociolinguistic Competence

The local Chinese students use various types of request strategies listed in the coding system of CCSARP, for instance, mood derivable, hedged performative and so on. The South Asian students, however, used only four kinds of request strategies. From the request perspective, the South Asian students tend to making a request that starts with 'Can/Could I', while the local Chinese students will make requests starting with 'Can/Could you'. In other words, the local Chinese students make requests that are hearer-oriented.

Another interesting point about the difference between the two groups of students when making requests is the use of direct strategies. The South Asian students employ direct strategies at a rate that is just about half of what the local Chinese students would employ. When using imperatives, the Chinese students use it more often, for instance, a Chinese student says, "Give me some money."

Despite the direct strategies, the Chinese students prefer to use mitigating devices to lower the degree of imposition. They also use past tense to soften their request, for example, "Could you help me?". According to Leech (1987), the use of past tense is considered to be more polite and the most common way of showing deference to the hearer's negative face. At another instance, the Chinese students would use 'disarmers' hoping to raise the hearer's awareness of a potential offense. For instance, a Chinese student says, "I am sorry! I hope I can get your forgiveness." before making a request.

When dealing with a situation involving the students making a request to a superior hearer, both groups of students use identical strategy. They use the most indirect request strategy, for instance, hints. Although most of the Chinese students make hints for requesting the manager for a day-off, only about 30% of the South Asian students used the same strategy.

5.22 Pragmalinguistic Competence

It is found that both groups of students use very few bi-clausal sentences in making their requests. The South Asian students use bi-clausal sentences at a rate of about 21% while the Chinese students only use them at a rate of about 3%.

As mentioned before, both Chinese students and South Asian students use direct strategies and imperatives when making a request. Yet, the Chinese students use 'want statement' relatively more than the South Asian students. According to Achiba (2003), L2 learners of EFL countries are aware that a want statement is an effective way to obtain compliance from adults, especially their parents. Thus, they naturally make the request in this way. A typical example illustrating the want statement made by a Chinese student, "Dad, I want to buy a new pair of shoes." The use of direct strategy is confirm by Blum-Kulka (1989) that making requests to family members can be more direct.

6. Interview

As another evidence supporting the results obtained from the survey. An interview was conducted with a principal, a discipline counselor and several subject teachers (Appendix ). Thus, the interview was conducted in a group environment. The interviewees work in a school whose students are mostly South Asian students (about 90%). Although the aim of the interview is to find out whether South Asian students are polite when making a request, it is certainly insufficient if the interviewees simply answer yes or no. In addition, the question of whether a person is polite or not may be very subjective. Therefore, the interview invited the principal and other teachers to describe their daily encounters with South Asian students. If the overall perspective towards South Asian students from different people come up similar, we will then be possible to use the results from the interview to support our findings.

In the beginning of the interview, the principal Mr. Chan gave an overview of his school and his students. He has been working in the school for over ten years. When asked about his view towards South Asian students, his response was quite positive. As shown in line XX of the interview (Appendix X), he said South Asian students are very friendly. He went to say that the students are funny species because they never get angry even if they are scolded severely by a teacher.