English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong, and is used widely in the Government, academic circles, business and the courts. All road and government signs are bilingual. English is what distinguished most and those who spoke English or were taught English were considered the elite, meaning those able to be taught English were considered upperclassmen. This conceptualized way of thinking arose in 1984. This dialect is its own category and is the standard in Hong Kong.
People with higher education, past experience of living in English-speaking countries, or who constantly interact with Hong Kong's English-speaking expatriate communities, generally speak an acquired form of English. Accent and spelling preference may vary from person to person, depending on the people they have interacted with and the country they have studied in. For most ordinary local Hong Kongers however, the English spoken is generally typical of foreign language learners: Cantonese-influenced pronunciation with some acquired Received Pronunciation characteristics, and with vocabularies and sentence structure generally more formal than those of native speakers. For instance, contractions and slang are not used, and many idioms are alien to Hong Kongers because the terms pertain more to the cultures of English-speaking countries.
The falling English proficiency of local English language teachers has come under criticism.
Since the Handover, English in Hong Kong remains primarily a second language, in contrast to Singapore where English has been shifting toward being a first language.