Speak Dating in Hong Kong „Europe without having to go abroad“

At the Speak Dating tables, interested people could try their hand at European languages.
At the Speak Dating tables, interested people could try their hand at European languages. | Photo: EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao/Jayne Russell

How can you get to know twelve European languages in only one day and why is it still fun to learn German at the age of 82? You could find out at a “Speak Dating” event in Hong Kong that was held by the Goethe-Institut, the Alliance Française, the British Council and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura.

On September 26, Yung Chan brings her daughter Audrey Chung Cheuk-yiu to the Festival Walk Mall in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong. She doesn’t bring her five-year-old child to shop for new clothes, but to experience Europe without having to go abroad.

Audrey and her language passport with a stamp from the French counter. Audrey and her language passport with a stamp from the French counter. | Photo: Goethe-Institut Hong Kong/Daniel Suen @ Cultural Journalism Campus “We would like Audrey to learn some European languages, and at first we looked at German because of Germany’s good educational opportunities,” said Chan, who has been learning German with her husband online. She hopes that they will inspire their daughter to learn the language.

A trial course in twelve European languages

It is the third edition of the Speak Dating Event, a fun day for the general public in Hong Kong to experience European languages free of charge.

The annual Speak Dating Event is organized jointly by the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong, Alliance Française, British Council and Istituto Italiano di Cultura and funded by the European Union Office in Hong Kong and Macao.

Demonstrating Europe’s linguistic diversity

The Goethe-Institut’s table at the Speak Dating Event. The Goethe-Institut’s table at the Speak Dating Event. | Photo: Goethe-Institut Hong Kong/Amy Yin “The idea is to demonstrate the diversity in Europe regarding languages and cultures,” says Dr Gabriele Gauler, director of the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong. “Many countries, particularly in Europe but also all over the world, are organizing events to show the cultural diversity in Europe.”

“The audience we would like to reach are students and young urban professionals. The location in Kowloon Tong is very good because there are universities and it is very convenient,” noted Dr Gauler, noting that the event was popular among students.

“It is good to learn at least a few words because you can break the ice and approach people. Otherwise, there will be a language barrier. We want to remove the barriers in Europe and be able to communicate with each other,” said Andrea Giagnoli, Director of Istituto Italiano di Cultura. Giagnoli thinks that Speak Dating was a good way to let people learn about different cultures in addition to the mainstream ones. He believes the event offers first-hand experience of how densely diverse Europe is, noting, “You take a plane or a train for one hour and you can meet people speaking a different language from yours.”

The Goethe-Institut’s stamp says: “Well done!” The Goethe-Institut’s stamp says: “Well done!” | Photo: Goethe-Institut Hong Kong From pupils to pensioners: European languages are booming

The event attracts a total of 800 participants. Among them are students, young professionals as well as elderly people who want to keep learning.

Leung Hui-fung, an activity teacher at St. Margaret’s Co-educational English Secondary and Primary School, took 49 secondary one pupils to the event as an after-school extra-curricular activity. “Our school offers language courses such as German, French and Spanish. Therefore we would like to let them know more about different foreign languages through the event.”

British-born Chinese Selina Cheung came for a taste of European languages. The 28-year-old nurse who lives in Hong Kong sampled German, French and Italian. “French sounds the most difficult to me,” she quips. “During those 5 minutes, we played with word cards. The teacher pronounces the word and I repeated afterward. I also matched words and pictures.”

The oldest learner at the Event: Liang Hsu-sun. The oldest learner at the Event: Liang Hsu-sun. | Photo: Goethe-Institut Hong Kong/Daniel Suen @ Cultural Journalism Campus One of the most avid language learners was Shanghai-born Liang Hsu-sun. The 82-year-old queued up for different language desks throughout the afternoon, an experience that reminded him of his youth. “I lived in Germany for five years and I know a lot of foreign languages. It is rather difficult for Cantonese speakers to learn foreign languages but it is not impossible. You just have to keep trying,” says Liang.

By Daniel Suen and Danica Fung, Cultural Journalism Campus

Cultural Journalism Campus is a non-profit education initiative in Hong Kong promoting cultural journalism, art criticism and appreciation of arts and culture. Visit CJC’s website for more information.