I've been living in Hong Kong since 2010 and I have never learned how to speak the local language, Cantonese. Why? Because it's HARD! Also, enough people here speak English so that communication has never been a problem.
In my years of teaching English in Hong Kong, and dating a local girl for almost 4 years, I've managed to pick up a few Chinese (Cantonese) words and phrases, but I could never carry on a conversation with someone.
So, I always tell my students that I have a lot of respect for their English language ability, even if they are still beginners, because they already are FAR ahead of me in terms of speaking a second language.
But the one question I am always asked is "how can I improve my English"? Honestly, there are tons of ways to become more fluent, and I will share these with you as I have time. But for this article, I just wanted to mention three things that you can do right away to improve your oral English and become a more comfortable and confident English speaker in Hong Kong.
1) Stop being afraid that you're going to make a mistake
I don't know what it is about the Hong Kong and Chinese culture, but I've noticed that my students are MUCH more shy and reserved than the students in the US. I think the main reason is that people here are more self-conscious and don't want to "lose face". In America, we are much concerned with this, so in general, we are more outspoken.
As a Hong Kong person, when you are learning English, it is very important to make mistakes as much as possible. Why? So that the English teacher can correct you and you know what you need to improve. As an English tutor in Hong Kong, I always tell my students, "I don't know what you don't know - until I hear you speak". At that point, I can offer suggestions, correction, encouragement and support. That's how you learn.
So, as an English learner, you should never be afraid to make mistakes, because mistakes are learning opportunities.
2) Try to be around English as much as possible
I have lots of students in Hong Kong and China who have lived abroad in English speaking countries for a period of time. Some people make good use of this opportunity to improve their English by being around and interacting with native English speakers every day. Others, however, stay in their comfort zone and limit their interaction to other people who speak Chinese. Such a wasted opportunity!
One of the best ways to become more fluent in any language, especially English, is to surround yourself with the language. This is not only limited to English speaking PEOPLE, but also internet, radio, television, newspapers, books, social media apps, etc. Fully surround yourself with English and it wil start to stick to you like glue.
If you often put yourself in and English-centered environment, you will begin to learn and absorb English passively without even really trying. In Hong Kong, this is really easy to do because there is so much English all around you. It really works!
3) Practice Practice Practice Practice Practice
Like with any skill or talent you want to develop and improve, becoming a better, more fluent, comfortable, confident and natural English speaker takes practice, patience and consistency. You may not see a noticeable improvement from day to day, but if you practice consistently, you will see a significant improvement over the weeks and months as you continue to focus on learning.
I have some students who see me once per month, and other students who see me three times per week. It all depends on your schedule, your desire to improve, and your willingness to make a commitment to becoming a better English speaker.