Thursday 1 September 2011

A Pearl By Any Other Name

This news story (below) involves super-intelligent Pearl Ho Sze-pui and her less-than-intelligent translation from English to Cantonese of her name (about novel names).

Pearl is quoted as always pronouncing her English name as "Pearl-lu" which she (or the news reporter) claims sounds like "pineapple" in Cantonese. WTF? That's not how Hongkies say "pineapple".

Anyways, during the summer months there are always plenty of news reports about the kids who get the best grades in their public school examinations. What would be more interesting are follow-up stories, say 1-, 3- 5- and 10-years down the road to see where these super-intelligent kids have ended up. Where are Hong Kong's brightest schoolchildren from 10 years ago now?

See other Pearl Posts

Belief sees `pineapple' shine as Pearl (The Standard)
Kelly Ip
Tuesday, August 02, 2011

It is hard to imagine that a girl who aced English Level A2 and just missed the perfect International Baccalaureate score by a point could not even order a Coke during a trip to London when she was nine.

Pearl Ho Sze-pui was on a two-week study tour and had placed an order at a McDonald's counter, when she was served a large Coke, not the medium one she thought she had ordered.

Now 17, Ho recently graduated from the IB Diploma Program at Yew Chung International School in Kowloon Tong.

She scored 44 out of 45 in the six subjects she took, including the highest score of seven in A2 English - a level of near-native fluency.

Seven out of 1,265 local students taking the IB got a perfect score of 45 this year, in results released last month. Ho was one of 29 who scored 44. "My classmates made fun of me when I first came to this school [Yew Chung]," Ho said. "As I always pronounced my English name as `Pearl-lu."

"Pearl-lu" sounds like "pineapple" in Cantonese
, and it became her nickname for a while.

But though Ho had a hard time at first, she picked up confidence in the Intensive English Program, a bridge program for new students.

"There is no Chinese class in this program," said Ho, who reads English fiction in her spare time, with the Harry Potter series among her favorites.

"Whenever I came across a word I didn't understand, I would highlight it [and look it up later]," said Ho, who is set to start as a philosophy and economics major at the London School of Economics next month.


  1. That pronunciation is how the Japanese would probably pronounce it. Wonder if she is really keen on Japanese culture?

  2. You are probably right AW, but I don't think Pearl was thinking about Japan when she was younger. She has kept her head down and in the books, like all good kids in Hong Kong should, and has now achieved the best grades. That's what it's all about … just ask any Tiger Mum!!

  3. Not sure that "super well studied" always equals "super intelligent". Knowledge without the intelligence to use it is not very useful.

  4. Yes I agree. The education system here rewards those who pass exams, so the emphasis is on rote learning. This is why tutoring "colleges" is big business. Many tutors are paid handsomely and act like local celebrities (e.g. see Karson Oten Fan Karno 0580 HKSAR Name of the Day). There also appears to be lots of tutors on this site who have novel names!

  5. Yes, so they get good marks, but thinking can be difficult. There were guys at school who were extremely smart, but had difficulty talking to mere mortals like me.