Hong Kong gov't offers English, Mandarin lessons to cabbies

HONG KONG -- In an effort to improve Hong Kong's image, taxi drivers are being offered free English and Mandarin lessons on tapes, CDs and the Internet.

The government is offering taxi drivers language-study kits and promoting a Web site where they can go to learn English and Mandarin, the dialect spoken on the mainland and Taiwan.

Surveys show that only 70% of Hong Kong residents were satisfied with taxi service, and the government said the initiative also is aimed at improving Hong Kong's image among visitors.

Most of Hong Kong's 6.8 million residents speak the Cantonese dialect of Chinese that dominates in the Guangdong province across the border.

Although many taxi drivers can speak and understand some English and Mandarin, finding certain streets can be a challenge, as many names are pronounced differently in Cantonese.

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