Taking the tube the other day, I overheard parents teaching their son English using the tube announcements. One announcement focused on escalators and standing still. The mother asked her son what the broadcast meant in English when it said, “企定定” (qi ding ding). The boy repeated the full English announcment verbatim: “When taking the escalator, hold the handrail, stand still and don’t walk”. Neither parent corrected him. He wasn’t wrong, but he also wasn’t fully correct. The translation is “stand still”.
The announcement went on about holding the handrail. The kid asked what the “hand—” word was because he didn’t understand it or didn’t catch all of it. The father said, “handrail” (correct), but the mother overrode him and declared it was “handle”. And because her tone brooked no argument and stated she was 100% correct, the kid has now learned the wrong label for part of an escalator.
This is a worrying trend as it doesn’t apply only to this boy and his parents.
Too many familys here have parents who possess an inflated opinion about their superiority of their language skills. Yes, the parents speak three languages, but, they lack correct knowledge of at least one of those languages (ie., English) (and they don’t do much better with the other one, i.e., Putonghua / Mandarin, as there are various terms that differ (greatly) to Cantonese). Pity the childlren who learn the wrong version then have to unlearn it later in life when or if they encounter the correct version.
A little knowledge is a detrimental thing… (dangerous not applicable in this case).