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Survey shows Filipina maids help HK kids learn better English

05 November 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao
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Wolfaardt debunks thinking that Filipina maids adversely affect English language learning of young kids

A survey conducted by an English Language Learning doctoral student at Polytechnic University of Hong Kong shows Filipina domestic helpers have a positive impact on the language acquisition of Hong Kong primary school children.

The researcher said the Filipinas mostly speak “very good English” and they are better educated than most helpers coming from other countries.

Francois Wolfaardt, who presented on Monday, Nov 4, at Hong Kong Baptist University the abstract of a survey he conducted recently for his doctoral dissertation, said this key role played by Filipino maids is overlooked or not appreciated by the children’s parents.


This attitude is said to stem from the popular belief that maids have a bad influence on Level 2 or kindergarten children’s English, as past opinion polls conducted in Hong Kong showed.

But Wolfaardt said the detailed published opinion on the Filipina maids’ level of English, however, “do not go into specifics and, generally, proponents think they would have a negative impact because of their pronunciation, because they speak substandard English.”
So earlier his year, Wolfaardt, whose parents are South African, obtained permission from his professor at Poly U to conduct a survey on the influence of Filipino maids on the L2 English language acquisition of their primary school wards as his thesis for his doctoral degree.

His findings debunked the myth that Filipino maids adversely affect the English learning of young kids.

Kids learn English better with a Filipina caregiver around, says study
Wolfaardt’s four research questions were:

1)      Do Hong Kong primary school children from homes with Filipina helpers have superior English listening comprehension?

2)      Do Filipina helpers have a positive impact on Hong Kong primary school chidlren’s Level 2 Englsih receptive vocabulary without a trade-off effect on Level one Cantonese receptive vocabulary?

3)      Do Hong Kong primary school children have superior reading fluency without tradeoff  effect on accuracy?

4)      Are children from homes with Filipina helpers inferior in recognizing Cantonese words in written form?
Wolfaardt’s hypotheses are: Filipina helpers have a positive impact on Hong Kong primary school L2 English comprehension; on their receptive vocabulary without a trade-off on their L1 Cantonese learning skills; on their English reading skills without a trade-off on accuracy; and do not have a negative impact on the children’s L1 Cantonese word reading.    

He coordinated the survey with various types of participating schools in Hong Kong such as international; those with English medium of instruction or EMI, and those with Chinese medium of instruction, or CMI.

The schools administered the English and Cantonese receptive vocabulary as well as Cantonese word reading tests on survey participants with the consent of their parents. The survey focused on the EMI schools.

To attract participants to the pilot study, Wolfaardt, a chess player who has played in international tournaments, offered 10 free chess lessons to an EMI in exchange for participating in the research.

After collating the results, he found out that Filipina helpers indeed have a positive impact on Hong Kong primary students’ L2 English listening and reading comprehension, as well as receptive vocabulary without a trade-off in their L1 Cantonese vocabulary and word reading.

He concluded that for this vital role that they play, the Filipina helpers deserve more credit than they typically get.
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