Do you plan to emigrate and are anxious that your child’s English writing may fall behind in an English-speaking country?
Or, do you intend to stay in Hong Kong, but still hope your child can write English in a native way?
I may be the person to address these concerns.
As an Oxford-educated bilingual writer who has worked for the Wall Street Journal, Apple Daily, and Mingpao, I have over 10 years’ of experience in writing, editing and translating.
As a Hong Kong Chinese who studied in Hong Kong’s local schools from kindergarten to university (bachelor level), I have a profound understanding of the particular challenges Chinese people face when writing English.
One such challenge. “My writing is boring (see the sample below). I can make sure my grammar is correct, but I don’t know what else to do”:
I am writing to bring to the public’s attention the large number of cases concerning animal cruelty in recent months. Sadly, some people go as far as hurting their pets or even killing them. Despite the laws regarding animal welfare, cases of animal abuse are still on the rise.
If the student who wrote the above text were to consult me, I would advise her to express herself as follows:
You know something is seriously wrong with Hong Kong’s animal protection laws when abusers are subject to a maximum of three year’s imprisonment and a 200K fine, while smugglers who try to pass through the customs with an endangered plant are looking at a10-year imprisonment and 10 million in penalty.
This, in a snapshot, is how I teach: by rewriting copies and instilling in students a sense of how to write with style.
Click to find out what my clients say about me.
Below are my rewrites of student copies in all categories (creative/fictional writing, expository writing, argumentative writing, narrative writing, English for workplace communication, university/boarding school application statement, and academic writing). They will give you some idea of the many ways I can help your child.
When I was Lost
My hike in the the mountains outside my native city of St Petersburg was turning into a nightmare. It was so cold that my teeth kept chattering. The snow was so heavy that I couldn’t see a thing. I was lost.
Night came and there was dead silence except for the howling of wolves. I was so afraid I would get eaten. I walked along some narrow paths, hoping I could find my way out, but all I saw were more mountains. Then I found a hut in the middle of nowhere. I rushed inside and made a campfire. Because I was so exhausted, I fell asleep immediately. In my sleep I heard some footsteps. At first I thought it was the wolves. The door opened and it was another hiker. He shared some of his food with me. The next day he led me back to St Petersburg.
At one point, despite the months of rehabilitation I had undergone, whenever I saw glistening pieces of raw meat hanging in the canteen kitchen, my first instinct was still to grab and devour them….
“The Lost Boy,” the media christened me. It was speculated that when I was still a toddler, my parents perished in one of those blizzards so common in the harsh Siberian winters, and a wolf mother treated me as one of her cubs. By the time I was discovered by loggers, I was already eight years old, totally mute, with the gestures and dietary preferences of wolves.
Soon, men and women in thick glasses and white coats put me under observation, dying to find out whether humans can still learn to speak when well past the prime learning period. When they discovered that even after months of intensive classes I couldn’t even mouth vowels, they concluded that I was forever lost and wrote scholarly papers featuring me as a subject.
The arms and legs of the lab staff who first attempted to put clothes on me still bore the scars from my scratching. I had never worn clothes and would never do. I once saw him jot down in his notebook “Subject has no concept of nakedness and is incapable of feeling shame.”
The day finally came when the science people gave up on ever turning me into a human. PETA wrote to the White House pointing out it was cruel to try to deprive me of my wolfness. I was eventually flown to Siberia and released back into the wild. The first thing I did after I got my freedom back was to look for my wolf family: I had to share with them the choicest cut of filet mignon I had stolen from the canteen kitchen when my human minders weren’t looking!
What if I told you your water is not safe. Or if you can get lead poisoning from drinking tap water. Fortunately, we are very privileged as UK tap water is renowned for being the safest tap water worldwide. The process the UK generally uses is quite simple, removing large items first, then using flocculation, a process which makes particles that will be filtered larger. This allows for more effective filtering larger pieces of material first, then smaller and smaller pieces using coarse and fine sand filters respectively. Obviously, the water is sanitised with a small volume of chlorine. We can simply drink clean water wherever we want as opposed to countries such as Uganda which require extensive measures for many people to access safe drinking water. Currently, 1 in 3 people lack access to safe drinking water, 785 million people do not have a basic drinking-water service and 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces. Drinking water is also required to stay healthy and a sufficient intake can have strong benefits such as improved performance, aiding weight loss and moving toxins from your body. There are many steps to ensure that we have clean drinking water, which are already reliable. Thought, are there faster, cheaper and more effective alternatives that can be used instead?
Currently, one out of four people in the world drink water contaminated with faeces.
What’s more, one in three lacks access to safe drinking water, resulting in 165 million cases of Dysentery each year – the equivalent of half of the US population.
If those of us in the UK find these figures shocking, it’s only because we have the good fortune of living in a land that provides water so clean that we just need to turn on the tap whenever we are thirsty.. Compare ourselves with the Ugandans, and we can see how lucky we are: 51% of that country lacks access to safe water; the urban population spends as much as 22% of its income just to buy clean water from vendors.
Can Laziness Be a Good Thing?
Most of us had come across days where we promise ourselves to clean the table, hang the clothes, finish the task tomorrow, but we either forget it or promise again to finish it the day after, feeling bad about yourself having a day doing nothing but actually “nothing”. Laziness was already impeding us to check our task-list, the advent of COVID, however, made our task-list longer and longer by allowing our laziness to take over while stuck at home. Little do we know; laziness may not be as harmful and detrimental as it been stated by teachers or parents.
If there’s a side of us COVID has revealed that we’re not proud of, it has to be our propensity to procrastinate when left to our own devices. Who among us have not taken advantage of being outside the watchful eyes of our teachers or bosses to snack or nap? And who among us have not suffered the pangs of self-reproach after we succumb to the temptation to procrastinate? Still, those in authority should pause before chiding their charges for slacking: a bout of laziness here and there isn’t always bad.
Tai O is a place surrounded by water. Wooden houses are built on the water, showing only their heads and remain their legs immersed in the clear, chilly and smooth seawater. I would say these houses are really a local culture which worth my visit. In my last visit, I could see people talking to their neighbor from the wooden windows, laughing out loud because of their jokes, and children chasing each other like I have never did in the prosperity city. People there were hospitable – if you have visited there once, you will absolutely feel that. As a traveler, after I arrived at that village, all they did was smile at me, greet me wholeheartedly, wiped off the water on their hands and pat my shoulder. Everything here was simple, or maybe you would rather say is old, but it is a scene of history showed to us lively. I felt the gentle breeze tickling me, brought me the salti ness of sea. Tai O is just beside the sea, and so there is always fresh air with a note of salty, which relaxed me the most. It was nothing special comparing to the gigantic mountains up high to the sky, flowers blossom in the field with aromatic scent, or black, smoky and sandy dead volcano. It is just an extremely quietly and unspoiled place. Instead of like an ablazing fire to amaze me, Tai O is more like a river, water running through and chill me little by little. It is smooth, slow and soft, nothing strong and stimulating, but it is a place where I will never forget. Housewives cooked the dinner and waited for their husband, smoke escaped from the window silently. Children playing with water, getting wet after water splashing through. Fishermen threw the net into the sea, sitting on the little boat patiently. All these pictures formed Tai o, the village on the water. It is definitely a must-go place in Hong Kong. I bet that it is one of the most unique culture in Hong Kong I have never seen.
The first thing first-time visitors notice about Tai O – dubbed the Venice of Hong Kong by tourist brochures – is probably how different it is from the real Venice. It isn’t disappointment but delightful surprises that Tai O holds for them, however. To be sure, there are no grand gothic palaces, but there are charming two-storey houses on stilts that provide a glimpse of not only the day-to-day lives of fishermen – it is in their canopied balconies that they hang their laundry and store their nets and oars – but also of Hong Kong’s roots as a fishing village. Unlike Venice, there’s the distinct scent of the sea in the air and as backdrop a mountainous terrain – visible in the distance is the pale outline of the second-highest peak in the former British colony, formed by volcanic rocks and therefore tells the story of its much more remote (geological) past.
ENGLISH FOR WORKPLACE COMMUNICATION
I am sure some of you have posted questionnaires on Instagram, asking your friends to share their last words for 2021; while some of you are making wishes for 2022. After undergoing such a long and harsh 2021, it is high time for us to celebrate the coming of 2022. You are now invited to join 2021 New Year’s Eve Carnival.
Hosted at Hong Kong College on 31 December at 7 pm, the Carnival consists of a live band performance by students, photo booths, booth games and souvenirs designed by students. For those looking for food and snacks, the Carnival provides unlimited and choicest food. Edan Lui – a member of “Mirror” – is going to perform at our school. This is a precious chance to meet Edan and listen to his music live. Having such a fun and tightly-packed carnival, all of you should seize this chance to celebrate the coming of 2022.
Tickets will be sold on the school website, starting from 18 December at a price of $80. All profits will be donated to Orbis – an organisation helping the blind. Should you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Edan is waiting for you at the 2021 New Year’s Eve Carnival!
Here’s a deal that sounds too good to be true – only that it is true.
On 31 December at 7 pm, for the price of a movie ticket, you’ll get to stand only a few feet away from Mirror’s Edan Lui and cheer for him.
You hear me right. Edan will be the guest performing at this year’s New Year’s Eve Carnival.
Watching him live at close quarters is far from the only attraction at the event. There will be food booths serving Old Hong Kong fare like roast chicken liver, black sesame rolls and milk fritters; game booths where you can play pinball machines and try your luck drawing soft toys in a lucky dip; souvenir stalls where you can buy crafts handmade by students, teachers, and alumni with TLC. A live band will provide background music for the festivities.
All students are welcome. Tickets are priced at $80 per head.
For more information, visit the school website. Book your tickets before 18 December. Contact email@example.com if you have any questions.
Don’t forget to bring with you a copy of Edan’s photo and ask him for an autograph!
PERSONAL STATEMENT (FOR COLLEGE APPLICATION)
I would personally like to consider myself an independent person. I grew up going to a British boarding school which really helped change my mindset. My family’s choices also made an immense impact on the way I think and assisted me into who I am now. I am very inspired by strong, independent women as they have changed how history worked and have impacted women in the modern-day. Coco Chanel once said that ‘In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different’. Chanel spent time at an orphanage where she learnt how to sew, and this shows independence as even though she didn’t live a life of luxury in her early years, she built herself up to create a world-leading fashion brand. Another independent woman who was an important figure in British history was Emmaline Pankhurst. Pankhurst was a suffragette who fought for women’s rights to vote in the early twentieth century; her work impacted British women and finally, in 1918, women over thirty were allowed to make their say in the world of British politics. These two women were quite different but they both influenced me to mature and develop my independence; I started to think differently about my future and how our generation can change how society works.
My time in a British boarding school hasn’t been lengthy but the rigid timetables and schedules have supported me in adapting to situations. Having your devices taken away every evening can be mildly irritating to one but I have learnt to change gear after an extended vacation in one evening. Accessing websites was also a challenge as they had been restricted by a new technology certificate and news websites were blocked. I decided to request the technology department to fix this issue and soon news websites were available to use.
I hope to be a good problem solver like my mother as when something goes wrong I can stay calm and resolve the issue. I once had a situation in boarding where two girls in my dormitory were not getting along with each other and one would always end in tears. One night, none of us could drift to sleep so I successfully told them to talk about what they felt and how the other could improve. They listened to the advice and still communicated to each other often. This made me feel very proud as this issue had been one where staff had to be included but I healed this situation.
When Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell expressed a distaste for schooling at the age of six, her suffragette mother took her on a trip to tour the mansions in Atlanta that had been ravaged by the Civil War. There, her mother beckoned her to imagine how it must have shocked the former inhabitants of these grand places to have had their way of life abruptly seized from them.
”What women have in their heads (the education they have) will carry them as far as they need to go,” she instilled in the young Mitchell.
This story made an impression on me because the school I was formerly enrolled in is connected with Emmeline Pankhurst. So, every time I come across facts and figures that relate to women’s rights, my curiosity is piqued.
The female figures I look up to range from style trailblazer Coco Chanel (I’m most empowered by her quote “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different’” and I especially admire her audacity in attempting a comeback in her 70s) to Eleanor Roosevelt, a lady who was self-conscious about her looks but was determined to not it get in the way of her self-realization. Chanel and Roosevelt taught me that strong women come in all forms and persuasions.
I still don’t know what kind of woman I want to be, but I suspect the fact that I know I have it in me to be disciplined – I’ve already gotten used to the straitjacket that is the boarding school timetable (in the UK) – will stand me in good stead as I figure out my strengths.
I am naturally drawn to writing and illustration, and if what older people tell me is correct – that my cultural roots will become important to me one day – perhaps in the future, I’ll produce works that incorporate aspects of Chinese culture.
It is a culture that discriminates against females. People focus on the many female fetuses that have been aborted under China’s one-child policy, but things were even worse further back into the past: just over a century ago, the Chinese benighted enough to dump live female newborns were so numerous that special towers were constructed for this purpose; this way, the infants could expire out of sight, out of mind.
The thought that this could have been my fate had I been born at an earlier time – this mere thought is enough to motivate me to fill my head with things that will carry me as far as I can go.
Evaluate the obstacles to international corporate governance convergence and the creation of a single set of rules
The principle of “universal” in corporate governance to converge and create a single set of rules may be very much a pipedream in the sense that every country has its own culture, values, and history, which also influences policy making. Therefore, an orderly and reliable market, instead, there is a common basis, a mutual understanding of the core principles that cross cultures. For example, in Europe, amendments introduced by member states and regulations developed under the Companies Act are moving towards transparency, employee participation, and separation of powers. Instead of a mere adoption of the Anglo-Saxon system, Asian countries such as China, a large number of the companies listed both domestically and abroad are state-owned, giving rise to the question of whether such companies can ever share the same goals as their shareholder-centric counterparts. Those countries are unique in their standards which reflect their own cultural and legal framework.
The best way to appreciate the complexities involved in coming up with a model of corporate governance that can be readily applied to most if not all countries may be to look at the example of English. While there’s no denying that English is the universal language of the world, any nation learning to speak it will sooner or later come up with their own version of “English”: Chinglish, Singlish, Indian English. Likewise, while the shareholder-centric philosophy underlying the Anglo-Saxon model of corporate governance may be attractive as a theory to those in Continental Europe and Asian countries, once transplanted there, factors like national culture and government system will inevitably alter corporate governance’s original flavour. Instead of decrying these divergent practices as an aberration, companies and investors alike should learn about and accept these differences, and determine their investment risk profiles after weighing the relevant pros and cons.