Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother Tongue Language

There is much controversy over the issue of the mother tongue language. I do not have my personal view about whether the weightage should remain the same or be reduced.

I wish to express my concerns on two issues:

a) Some people hold strong views that the weightage should be maintained while others felt strongly that it should be reduced. I am concerned about the manner in which the views were expressed, without regard for the views of other people who may be in different circumstances.

b) There seem to be a loss of trust in the government leaders to find the right balance that takes into account the diverse views of the people. I believe that they have the responsibility to seek the right policy which accommodates the views and needs as many people as possible.

I believe that it is possible to encourage students to learn a second language, without forcing them to do it through the "weightage" in the PSLE.

Tan Kin Lian


Anonymous said...

There is a view that the purposal to reduce the weightage of the MTL is to help the children of those English speaking "elite" so that it will not affect their overall result when applying for their ideal "elite" secondary schools. These children are strong in other subjects but very very weak in MTL.

In the same breath, shouldn't the MOE also reduce the weightage of the English language to help the children who are weak in English but very strong in subjects like Maths and Science?

During my time, I have many friends and classmates who are extremely good in Maths and Science but very poor in English. Most of them are denied the chance of studying in the Science stream because their English result was poor. However, if English were not included in the weightage they would have been ranged in the top 5% in the same cohort.

Is there any truth in such as view? You draw your own conclusion.


Anonymous said...

The problem is when the so-called `Mother Tongue' is NOT the mother tongue in the family.

Many familes these days use English from the day the child is born.

If the more realistic term is used i.e. 2nd Language, then there could be a way to encourage students to pick it up. Of course that 2nd Language could be any language in the world.

dsowerg said...

I support the 2nd language policy but why must the 2nd language be tied to our race?

If I want to learn Tamil, why can't I do so just because I'm Chinese and die-die must take Chinese as a 2nd language?

There's more to this "Mother Tongue policy" than purely "bilingualism".

Anonymous said...

Statistics have shown that many highly qualified Singaporean students are denied University places just because they are poor in the second language, especially Chinese, and many of the places are clinched by foreign or PR students from China, and there are grumblings that our local students are being marginalised by China Chinese who are proficient in the language.
It seems that our Govt is trying to fix this problem to appease the locals, thus they exploring the use of this method of less weightage on the the second language.
The controversy has opened up the confusion and disagreements between the Govt MPS, sending out different signals to us, which is the case of recent times, and as usual they are taking the usuual instant tree approach to solve problems.
Election buying tactics?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:35 AM wrote: The problem is when the so-called `Mother Tongue' is NOT the mother tongue in the family.

Looky here. You can call it whatever you want, "mother tongue", second language, and so on.

But be clear that you need to have a second language. Now go choose whichever second language you like or on offer.

In the unlikely event that your second language of choice is not on offer at MOE, you are then allowed to enroll in an international school.

In my time we even have third language studies at secondary school level. And we have people who excelled in all three languages.

As for the argument that therefore locals are losing places in local universities to foreigners, this is a matter of admission policy and the govt's foreign "talent" policy more than anything else. Besides we are talking about PSLE here. In any case you can observe tons of foreign students in local universities who cannot even string a decent English sentence. Oh wait some of the foreign lecturers teaching here are themselves the same too. So don't be confused by the two issues.

Anonymous said...

REX comments as follows,

If there is any failure of the Singapore government in terms of chinese teaching, the biggest failure was that it had never made any attempt to stop or discourage the unnatural use of ENGLISH to babies born from Chinese parents.

Baby-talk in broken singapore style english is one of the most repulsive sounds on earth. It makes my hair stand. Because this baby-talk are almost always basically literal carry-over sentence-constructs from dialect or mandarin chinese, it is bad english and sound horrible. Prof Higgins would have turned in his grave (those who remember the show My Fair Lady will appreciate) The poison is already in the system for 30 years and dificult to eradicate.

I take cover when i am travelling and i hear this pidgin english baby-talk where such singapore parents indulge in openly in front of shocked americans or japanese or whatever. I feel ashamed.

It is much more sensible for the chinese parents to speak Cantonese, Hokkien, Hainanese, Mandarine, to young children and babies, as a japanese would speak in japanese to their kid or a Malay will speak in Malay to theirs etc.

The use of either dialects or mandarin to children at an early age, could help them quite a lot, maybe more than the attempts at structured teaching in schools. We cannot solely blame the Education System.

As a result of this oversight in policy, we have a whole generation of people who swears by "English" and yet when a westerner looks at them find them an oddity and misplaced soul. I doubt it is possible to really feel self-confident in a globalised world speaking like, say in the grossly accented style of Lim Swee Say.

For me, I brought up my kids on mandarin because i choose to. It has got nothing to do with doing business in China. I think the govt had overemphasised a point which doesnt strike a chord with many parents who will say, heck, neither i nor my kids intend to do business in china!! If the government had practiced a more balanced approach and allocated more funds to language teaching, i think we would not have this problem today.

In a way, i support the influx of chinese immigrant to singapore as they are the antidotes of a poisoned cultural environment. It is a quick fix. Locals are benefiting when we interact with them. This is an oddity, in other countries in the world, immigrants poison the local language, in Singapore these immigrantes purify the mainsream!

Asians must stand tall and be proud of themselves.


Anonymous said...

Parents who have problems teaching Chinese to their kids may like to check out which shows the formation of Chinese characters using a building block method.

Here are some examples:

1) 焚 (burn): forest 林 on fire 火
2) 埋 (bury): inside 里 the earth 土
3) 艳 (gorgeous): rich 丰 colours 色
4) 男 (male): farm 田 + effort 力. Symbolic: the one who is hard at work in the farm = male 男

~ Logic Chinese

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr.Tan,
I share your views and being of mixed parentage, my mother tongue is English, though my father is Chinese and whose mother tongue is Chinese. We communicate mostly English at home.

So the appropriate usage should be 2nd Language and not because my father is Chinese, my mother tongue should not follow his "RACE"

Anonymous said...

I believed that at the minimum, mother tongue should be included in the PSLE score. For O level, to be included if it is good to join JC. But for JC level, it should not be made compulsory as a subject to go to university as the basic proficiency at O level is sufficient liao

Anonymous said...

“Statistics have shown that many highly qualified Singaporean students are denied University places just because they are poor in the second language, especially Chinese”

I know of many average Chinese Singaporeaen students who failed their mother tongue language badly and still able to find a place in the local university.

No wonder said...

This is the true Singapore and its roots.

We have issues about "2nd language" we have issues about " mother tongue"

Trying to accomodate the major ethnic groups and not offending any.

These points are here to stay even during my years in primary school.. back in 1963!
The Gov tries to tweak this each time the statistics indicate a slip in proficiency in mandarin or english and also how it is used in admissions to secondary schools, junior colleges.

This is our Archilles heel.

Parents being so damned kias-si are adding much to this too. Did my parents bothered about my language proficiency during my youth? Did I become a person of poor character? charged for crimes?
unable to find work?

What about my kids? yeah, they are terrible in mandarin ( but better than I ) will they find it difficult to get into local Universities? yes. Do they want to go to local universities? no.
Do they want a universsity degree?

What work can they do then?
definitely not the jobs that all degree holders are fighting for, but jobs that is too low brow for them.

C H Yak said...

The real problem is that in Singapore, our system is always searching for "easy" tools to quick-fix a "problem". I felt it was an attempt to stop antagonising some parents for a quick fix because Election is near and hence the issue almost saga but backfired.

When the Govt. cannot use "money" as a tool to fix a problem, they often use their policies, and hence "examinations" are targetted as a quick fix.

I recalled I had to pass Chinese at "A" Levels in order to enter our only local university. My peers who did not like Chinese as 2nd Langauge, and took Malay; had cursed and sworn at that policy then. That was the "trial and error" phase to introduce MTL education.

I believe language should be taught through a "natural" way and process. I do not think Chinese as a MTL is taught in a unique way in China today via quick-fix manipulation through examination policies or its emphasis by weightage on examinations.

I personally learned Chinese the "natural" and "simple" way, ironically when our education system was not so well structured and complex.

Today, I work for a subsidiary of a China state-run MNC. I am employed more because of my specialist skillset as well as my knowledge of the English langauge; rather than my ability in the Chinese language. But with my MTL knowledge learned as a 2nd language, I am able to communicate and appreciate the Chinese culture, style of management and doing business. I do not and need not speak as fast as natural Chinese native speakers, but I can follow at the speed they are talking or delivering their message in order to work with them. And I communicate at my speed, and in the imperfect mode.

I believe this was also the way I learned English. While in our university, I had to get use to listening to lecturers speaking different brands of English - UK, USA, Aust , NZ, HK and other Asian nationalities incl. a bit our own Singlish...and it was not about studying languages but "contruction of architectural buildings".

In fact, it was harder for me to cope with learning English than Chinese at the early stage. Today, I know both pretty well, although I have lost touch in written Chinese. But I can read sufficiently well.

I believe which ever langauge one knows better, one will tend to use that language as the "comprehending" language in the thought process. I do not know if any langauge expert can prove me wrong. So my tendency is to listen well in Chinese to a native speaker and then use English language to decipher its meaning. This is a habit which is hard to rid completely.

But my above handicap does not stopped me from understanding the Chinese culture, management style, and long as I can catch the words fast enough... The problem is we do not have the "culture" to help us learn the language. "Culture" or "Wen Hua" ... means language (wen) is just the first or beginning part of culture, we need the bigger environment to perfect the learning of the Chinese language. When one master the langauge , he is most likely to master the understanding of culture. And in China, when you master both, you are considserd as "educated". This environemnt we do not have. This is not simply solved by using quick-fix tools and policies like having native speakers as language teachers or putting weightage on examinations...or even the way it is tested or examined.

dsowerg said...

Anon 11:13AM

"But be clear that you need to have a second language. Now go choose whichever second language you like or on offer. "

But you cannot choose. If your IC says "Chinese", you must take Chinese as your "Mother Tongue". There's no choice about it unless you fall under an exemption category (e.g. "Returning Singaporeans").

One of my friends in the Uni had to fight with MOE as he wanted to take Malay but his IC labelled him as "Chinese". BTW, he is Peranakan and grew up speaking Malay in the family.

By all means keep the Second Language policy but stop tying it to some nebulous concept called "Mother Tongue".

Anonymous said...

S'pore is a multi-racial and multi-cultural society. If we are so blind and insist that one language is enough for all, I think it is worse than shortsighted.
Chinese language, no matter in the form of dialects or mandarin, has been existed in S'pore for the last two centuries. If we want to get rid of them by downgrading them as nothing, I think it is an anti-cultural and anti-racial move.
Is it really difficult for our children to learn CL? Any aptitude test has shown the proves that it is true? Nevertheless, there were more than 80% of students easily passed the PSLE every year. The disability of children in learning a language should not be judged by parents opinion alone. We should judge from the results or aptitude test by students.
In fact, the level of difficulty in a test is very much depended by the content and format of the test.
If MOE really think the learning of CL is difficult because of difficult to get a good grade, then change the format and content of PSLE will be a simplest thing to do. No need to openly saying that learning CL is meaningless and resulted in a far cry from most Chinese Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

Me am very happy to see that most Singaporeans of different Races honour their origins(roots)


this is the most honourable thing to do as humans.

Me likes the points put up by Rex.


J said...

Why don't we give raw scores and let schools judge for themselves what kind of students they want to take? For example, if students has potential in Math and Science, then let them maximize this potential instead of bogging them down with the 2nd language requirement. There are various ways one can prepare a secondary school student for university and eventually the real world. Of course, this requires some reform in secondary schools as well.

It is not just languages at secondary school where you find that many of the subjects that you learn in school have little relevance to you in the real world.

J said...

By the way, the rumour is that Lee Hsien Loong was extremely good in Math but his Chinese is not so good. They adjusted the standards for Chinese when he took his O and A levels. Is that true?

This debate on Chinese language goes all the way back to our current prime minister's schooling years!

Anonymous said...

Many Peranakans I know, migrated to Australia because of Mother tongue, we have lost a generation of the true Babas & Nonyas!

The little Nonya sitcoms was a hit but sad to say, we have lost the culture & the very well educated Peranakans in the command of good speaking English.

Be practical & NOT impose the stress of "Mother Tongue" to others
who are at a disadvantage!

Chinese said...

At all cost, the ethnic mix in Singapore must always remain in the same percentages as 40 years ago.
The entire constitution depends on it.

Why do you think you cannot choose malay as a 2nd language even though you are peranakan?.. because the I/C states that you are Chinese.. and that is the percentage that needs to be maintained.

Why do you think we opened our doors to PRC? regardless of ability to build new businesses?
Why dont we open our gates to Fillipinos and Thai or Vietnamese or Laotians? Its race. and dont be fooled by some high brow arguement that its not.

Think, and think carefully. its not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

Learning our mother tongue is about learning the language of our ethnic group and maintaining our cultural identity.

While it is more complicated for a child of mixed parentage, the majority of us come from pure ethnic backgrounds.

With the right mindset and effort on the part of the student plus more effective teaching method, Chinese-Singaporeans should be able to attain a meaningful level of Chinese proficiency to get by in their daily lives. After all, even a good number of foreigners are picking up Chinese and using it fluently these days.

Anonymous said...

Even Confucius will be confused with MTL issue.

The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorances he quotes:

Anonymous said...

Most Chinese teachers can't speak English as they are either from Chinese schools previously or from China. I'll bet these Chinese from China are the ones fearing for their future and putting pressure on the govt keep the status quo as far as PSLE weightage is concerned. Did they threaten to return to China? Why is the govt caving in to them and not listening to those who have real problems with the language? How can a child who does not understand Chinese learn Chinese from someone who probably doesn't speak English? That is the way Chinese is being taught now. It is no wonder many bright students who are poor in Chinese are being penalised for this.

Anonymous said...

Lets look across the causeway; the malaysian Chinese are both good at mandarin and dialect; plus, they know bahasa melayu as well as English. Technically speaking, they know 4 languages. Their government weren't even tweaking or meddling with their language education. For S'pore, we see changes all the time, yet many are still struggling with Mandarin. It's not the teachers nor the syllabus; it's the lack of usage. that is all.

Anonymous said...

There are children who are good in Maths and Science. There are children who are good in Linguistics. There are children who are good in expressing themselves through a different kind of media.

Why can't we just acknowledge that and let them develop their different potential to the maximum according to what they are, (instead of what we want them to be)?

Why do adults assume that children are intellectually homogeneous before they hit puberty ? Are the adults nuts ?

Anonymous said...

Don't be "distracted" by the so-calleed "weigtage".
The standard is so low now, and it is so easy to score high marks or at leat just a pass. If you look at the statistics, you would understand better.
It is the "psycholoical barrier" or the dislike of the language that put them off.

Anonymous said...

"""The malaysian Chinese are good at mandarin, bahasa melayu as well as English. Their government weren't even tweaking or meddling with their language education. It's not the teachers nor the syllabus; it's the lack of usage."""

It's not the teachers nor the syllabus; it's the attitude; the attitude of their parents and their peers that badly affect them!!!!

Anonymous said...

"The malaysian Chinese are good at mandarin, bahasa melayu as well as English." I would be disappointed if my child were to speak English like a Malaysian Chinese. Jack of all trades, master of none.

I still can't believe that some people are still linking Chinese to culture etc. My child took Higher Chinese at a SAP school but she still says she cannot speak Chinese and I find no speck of Chinese culture in her! So, don't kid yourself!

Unknown said...

I think the argument whether the Chinese language is "mother tongue" or "second language" can be stopped. Personally, each one can choose his own "mother tongue" and "second language".

But as an education system of a Nation, she must consider what kind of capability is requred for most of the citizens, what kind of culture she wants to promote when she decide the "Mother tongue". Therefore, if the Mister of Educastion decides to forgo "English" because some people say that "Maths and Science" are more important and favorable, and then another, he wants to reduce the weight of Chinese language because his children or his friends' chiildren compain that "Chinese" is too difficult for them, becoming an obstacle to their future, the Minister needs to step down. because he has no idea which direction he wants to lead the next generation of the Country to.
He forgets the "root" of the people.

My husband and I both work as engineers. Obviously, Science and Maths seem easier to us. However, I always tell my chilren literacy is very important because literacy
plays an important role in our real life. therefore, I will never send my chilren to the so call "science and technology school at early age.

We must remmeber that there are some basics besides exams, and exams reinfornce the basics.

Anonymous said...

Many Chinese-Singaporeans insist on calling themselves "Singaporean" only and inwardly wish to deny their ethnic Chinese identity.

Do they not know that Singaporean is but their nationality/citizenship whereas being Chinese is an undisputed ethnic identity (black hair, brown eyes, yellow skin) which does not change no matter how they feel inside?

This group of people seem to have some kind of identity confusion. Even if they were to emigrate to US/Canada/UK/Australia/NZ etc. they will also not be fully accepted by the citizens there just because they look and speak differently from the natives. What's worse, they may also be considered second-class citizens.

Our ethnic and cultural identity is at stake if we don't learn Chinese. I don't seem to be able to find any other racial group that has so little regard for its cultural heritage than us Chinese-Singaporeans. This is very sad.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from PM Lee's statement on MTL:

"We are not just people who came from outer space who have learnt English. We have histories, we have heritages, we have identities. We have adapted to the modern world and we are working with English. But mother tongue is an important part of us. It defines us and at the same time links us to the world we live in - Asia, India, China, South-east Asia. It places us so that we are centred; so that we do not feel we are off-balance, that we are second-class copies of somebody else. We are ourselves - and proud of it."

Anonymous said...

When the govt itself appears confused as to what is 'mother tongue' of ethnic Chinese Singaporeans, can we expect it to formulate proper and rational policies?

Quick fix has ALWAYS been the govt's habit, esp. with regards to Singaporeans' education. For instance, current emphasis in Biology is the cell in line with the country's pursuance of the life-science industry. Govt appeared not to be too bothered about ensuring a balanced and sufficiently broad coverage of the subject, a hallmark of earlier syllabus.

A similar approach has been adopted for Mandarin. When govt decided to call Mandarin by the gross misnomer 'Mother Tongue', it gave scant regard to the true ethnic, heritage and roots of local Chinese. Manipulation is the order of the day, in this govt's book - anything and everything to achieve its political objectives. Well, the fact remains that you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Govt has also been force feeding without results. This is all due to ONE-SIDED thinking, a blatant habit of this govt, conveniently ignoring that you need TWO HANDS to clap or that the table tennis is played by two people on opposite sides of the table!

No doubt, current U-Turn is because of GE votes.

Anonymous said...

i am surprised that the PAP gabrament has allowed the 2nd Lang issue to degenerate to such a state.

the MOE is also showing a profound lack of basic understanding what primary sch education should be all about. Too many yes-men who cannot think critically?

Pri sch level is when u build foundations, foundations that are the building blocks to hard subjects like sciences and maths later on. And the most basic foundations of all are language skills. Strong lang skills (soft subjects) make the subsequent learning of hard subjects like science and maths much easier in sec sch level and beyond. That is what education has always been about.

So instead of reducing weightage in 2nd Lang etc. I say INCREASE the weightage of the two languages at pri sch level! This move will straight away divert more real resources into the teaching and learning of language skills instead of token lip service by the PM and the clueless edu minister.

NNB so simple also don't know, these million dollar ministers realli jiak sai!

recruit ong

Anonymous said...

Rex comments as follows,

I still can't believe that some people are living in denial mode, quote: "I still can't believe that some people are still linking Chinese to culture etc." unquote.

Language is an integral part of any Culture, for me it is as plain as day. It becomes only more apparent from the third or fourth generation down, if the language is not properly passed down to the young ones. Some things you can't see today, but the impact will be seen much later.

The fact that some people at this point in time could pass Higher Chinese exam but yet not feeling any bit more "chinese" is merely a matter of mindset and self determination. Just because the "official" environment in singapore is closed-door by-and-large to chinese intellegentsia, it does not mean that the language is not related to the culture. The years of training in higher chinese will really bridge gaps when one is given the right environment; the true relation of language and culture will become more apparent then.

To the person who made the denial statement @8.22am, may i suggest that this is just an illusion world we are living in called Singapore. What really matters, when the PAP is long dead and gone, when that person anon@8.22 am too is long dead and gone, is what his kid and grand-kids sees in the mirror, and the DNA, that is how Caucasians or non Caucasions see us..., and the "english" that we think we are good at, which we use everyday in this tiny space, is nothing but an illusion of goodness. IT IS NOT GOOD that anyone should abandon the language and culture of his heritage. What a terrible education system we have that produce people with such ideas.

I also agree with one of the comments above, that there are no other racial group that has so little regard for its cultural heritage than Chinese-Singaporeans. Indeed, in the entire world of thousands of billion, Chinese Singaporeans are the only group that contains elements within, who completely denegrate, despise and want to dissociate itself from its origins.

For me this is one of the greatest failures of the People's Action Party in its 50 years of rule. It had failed to foresee and arrest what i would call a social-cancer amongst the Chinese Singaporeans. Fortunately this disease can be cured, Chinese is easier to learn than any time before thanks to modern technology. But the mindset has to be corrected above all else.


dsowerg said...

I am proudly Chinese but please, I am under no illusion that STANDARD MANDARIN (the form of Chinese being taught in our schools) is my mother tongue.

Standard Mandarin or Putonghua is a political construct: an official language imposed by the central government aimed at cutting across the various Chinese languages and dialects in China.

Back in "MOTHERLAND CHINA" only 50% of the residents speak Standard Mandarin. So what's this thing about Chinese culture?

If I want to be in touch with my Chinese heritage I should be studying HAINANESE in school instead. Nong di hai lam nang!!!

Anonymous said...

The discussions/debates on the Mother Tongue Language is more of an emotional/cultural attachment of one to his/her ethnic roots.

As for the commercial and mercantile advantage make possible by knowing popular foreign languages, all businesses are awared of it since time immemorial. BUT WHY ARE THE ANG MOES(WHITES) NOT LEARNING CHINESE AND INDIAN LANGUAGES?? THEY HAD BEEN IN THE ORIENTS FOR CENTURIES AND THEY CERTAINLY KNOW HOW GIGANTIC THESE REGIONS ARE in term of market.

Dare I say only the STUPID and ROTTEN ASIANS think in pragmatic and silly ways. Me am sick of perverted arguments by pragmatist and convertibles.

Since the Day the Vernaculars and Nanyang University were removed, many have suspected political and personal agenda. And it is sickening to note that they are still at it.


Anonymous said...

Rex, maybe you should look at Indon chinese, pinoy Chinese, or Thai Chinese before you sprout more cultural heritage or linkage stuff bashing Singapore Chinese.

Anonymous said...

Rex comments on anon 12.35

I am not bashing all Singaporean Chinese as you anon 12.35suggested. I am just saying my thoughts about thesmall subset of the whole.

Indon Chinese? To my knowlede, they yearn to learn chinese, but it was no fault of theirs that they know not much of it...because Sukarno government implemented a blockade of all things chinese since the 1960's. Despite that many Indon Chinese are proud of their chinese heritage too and mostly would like if given the opportunity, to know chinese. They are very nice humble people, unlike some cocky Singaporeans who think too highly of themeselves and oblivious of the greater picture.
Thailand's Chinese - to my knowledge many are Teochew background and i hve never heard of any Thai chinese who says and condemn the learning of Teochew or mandarin. I also like Thai people, they are very gracious and polite.

Only some Singaporean chinese are strange enough to embrace totally English and live in a fairy land world thinking they are very Ang Mo and classy and ching ching is third class, useless stuff. It is an oddity out of a billion people on Earth to think like that, as i suggested earlier on.
(note: with exception i do respect all Peranakans because the intermarriage aspect has truly caused their DNA to evolve and malay is an acceptable subculture overlay on their chinese root)

Finally regarding eve+line's comments that hainanese is mothertongue, etc. there is nothing wrong feeling that way. That is why i think that hainanese should use haininese with their kids, and cantonese use cantonese with their kids and so on ---if one doesn't really feel like mandarinising the household.

However Mandarin is for uniting all chinese dialect groups, in the same way as English is to unite inter-racial groups. Therefore it is not good to degrade, despise, or downgrade the learning of Mandarin.

And, anglicising the household from day 1 of baby's life, is a terrible terrible terrible terrible mistake that can be seen only generations down. Because we will never be an ang mo.


Anonymous said...


I agree that its the PAP fault, but my take is that it is for an entirely different and opposite reason.

Many ethnic Chinese Singaporeans are bad in Mandarin and English because of meddling by the govt for political reasons.

If it had not manipulated the demise of Chinese-, Malay- and Tamil-medium schools we would likely be in a better position than now. Nantah, the only Chinese Tertiary Institution was eventually closed, bringing Chinese education at its highest level to a close here. And the reason for all this is the great govt (aka LKY) unhappiness with the Chinese educated community - esp students and the business community - for defying him, for being assertive, for having its own mind about things, as hotbed of students activism. Something, LKY would not brook, as we all now know too well.

Same, with the tabloids and newspaper he closed. In all these he used the communist bogeyman to justify his action.

The present state of affairs in education is the direct product of his manipulation to rebuild Chinese education and Chinese society after his own image. Which as we now famously know has become one BIG MESS.

It is the height of the ridiculous for all local Chinese to be accorded the 'honorary' dialect group of 'Mandarin'. There appears to be little resistance because he has over time bought over/created 'grassroot' leaders who are little more than mercenaries who have been willing to sell their heritage and roots for favours gained for personal advantage, often business advantage.

Anonymous said...

Rex, please clarify in what ways are you more "cultured" than Chinese who cannot speak Mandarin?

Do you remember a time when the Chinese from China were always asking for handouts from Singaporeans when it was under communist rule? Do you honestly believe that just because you can speak Mandarin, the Chinese in China will accept you as one of them? Don't kid yourself!

Anonymous said...

Anon @3.30pm wrote: "Do you honestly believe that just because you can speak Mandarin, the Chinese in China will accept you as one of them? Don't kid yourself!"

Responding on behalf of Rex:

To the Mainland Chinese, Chinese outside of Greater China region (China/HK/Taiwan) are known as overseas Chinese/华侨. We are definitely accepted as one of them because we look just like them, have the same ethnic DNA and speak the same language.

Anonymous said...

rex comments on anon 2.36 post and anon 3.30 post a

Firstly, anon 2.36 --
Yes i agree with you that it wasn't the right thing to close down Nantah. Basically, LKY is an english educated elite, couldn't understand chinese originally, and he couldn't accept the other camp. Of course in those days china and its oppressive regime, didnt present a very good image to many people so LKY was much preferred over Lim chin Siong et al. But for political reasons he played along in a way which you "anon 2.36" had elaborated very well in your post.

Of course, I agree with your point, also pointed out by many, that mandarin is not really the natural mother tongue, but does it matter so much? As long as it allows access to the written chinese language and the world of the intellegentsia in print, it is not to be disdained, isn't it so? Mandarin chinese unifies dialect groups. Do not forget old enmities and jealousies between certain dialect groups. It always exists. Mandarin is a neutral platform for peaceful co-existence of dialect groups, just as English does for different races (actually i got this idea from the writer Catherine Lim)

For anon 3.30pm --
It has nothing to do with whether I am cultured or not, when i posted comments. Consider this: one does not need to be a musician to say that a certain song is out of tune. It is the same logic as what PAP tells everyone, if you are so clever, come out and fight me, don't comment on politics. What rubbish. Must i be a politician to comment on another politician? Must i be highly cultured, to comment and say some basic things about Language and Heritage? YES maybe, to some extent, but it is not a NECESSITY. Everyone has a little bit of brains you know.

Also, i see you are putting words into my mouth. I didn't say that "just because i speak mandarin, the china chinese will accept me.." Of course not. Same with English, just because you speak pidgin badly accented Singlish, do you think Americans, British will accept? No, surely not.

But that's not the point, whether the chinese accept me or not. The real point is this: IT IS ABOUT YOU being able to plug in to the greater superset and making sense of the immense wealth and diversity of the heritage you are originally blessed with. It is about building a bridge from your soul to a greater superset. Unfortunately,some have chosen to consider it a curse not a blessing.
So as i said, we are oddity in the world of 7 billion humans, and PAP government had not adequately addressed such issues.

Perhaps Lim Chin Siong should have been our PM. He was extremely bilingual, charismatic, and an intellectual. I saw a video of his speech and I was so impressed. Too bad, like all anti PAP people, they die young of illness, I don't understand why.


Anonymous said...

Rex: Only some Singaporean chinese are strange enough to embrace totally English and live in a fairy land world thinking they are very Ang Mo and classy and ching ching is third class, useless stuff. It is an oddity out of a billion people on Earth to think like that, as i suggested earlier on.

Aha! So finally the root of your displeasure is revealed.

I have a Malaysian colleague, and being Malaysian her English is weak as she went through Chinese schooling all the way. Now that she is in Singapore, her weak English has prevented her from being as mobile career wise as compared to Singaporeans. She has a pet peeve. She pride herself as culturally aware and will rail against and put down what she call the Singaporean Chinese "bananas". In fact anyone who is weak in Chinese she will have this culturally superior and condescending attitude towards them. So what do you think is the real cause of her behaviour? Is it really the sense of cultural superiority, or is it the use of Chinese culture/language to mask her own weakness in English? ;)

Rex, I am afraid to say here, you are starting to sound like her.

And it may well be true there are some Singaporean Chinese whom like you said feel that being very angmo is classy and so on. But so what? Why does it bother you?

In fact the more this bothers you, the more it reveals your own insecurities. And I don't mean this in an offensive way. If you take offense I apologise.

You see I for one would not begin to judge these "bananas" or presume, because everyone's background is different. Is it really so odd in this globalised world? E.g. a chinese raised up in an anglo saxon environment (American born chinese) will have more cultural affinity to that environment than say traditional Chinese heritage. We are all inclined to make generalised sweeping statements but we should always refrain from doing so.

recruit ong

Anonymous said...

Recruit Ong wrote, "Is it really the sense of cultural superiority, or is it the use of Chinese culture/language to mask her own weakness in English? ;)"

In her case, both factors seem to be at work. However, there exists a sizeable group of effectively bilingual Chinese Singaporeans who defend the bilingual policy for its merits. This is reported in the Straits Times today.

We appreciate both English (global language) and Chinese (our mother tongue with 5,000 years+ of history) and would love to learn even more languages if possible as language allows us to access different cultures and reap so many benefits. It goes without saying that travelling to a foreign country becomes more enjoyable if you can speak the language.

Anonymous said...

rex comments on recruit ong's post.

hello pal,
recalling your anecdote of the lady from malaysia who used her superior chinese skills to frown upon others, that is bad attitude, and i certainly do not associate with her (you said her English was poor. Mine isn't surely.) It's a bit tangential to the discussion i think.

I would go back to my point. We discussing an intellectual point, there is no necessity to get personal anyway. You could call me an idiot, a numbskull, but still it cannot change the fact Language is integral of any Culture.

The point of all my posts is simply to suggest that Singapore culture is a figment of the imagination. Strip away everything and we are all ching chings or akunenehs or un-de-leh people. We should treasure that and build upon it. 4000 years of chinese heritage, 3000 years of Indian heritage, 1000 years of Malay heritage, there are nuggets of gold and wonderful depths of wisdom in these cultures that we are already part of,this is fact.

Asians must stand tall and be comfortable with their heritage.


Anonymous said...

Rex: "The point of all my posts is simply to suggest that Singapore culture is a figment of the imagination."

Hello Rex,

Spore got its own culture what! Singlish lah, and that is part of the Spore culture whether the purists like it or not.

I notice purists can get quite uptight about Singlish, but really it is nothing to be ashamed of. And if they are, once again it reflects their own insecurities and close mindedness hehe.


recruit ong

Anonymous said...

Me WILL BE IN FULL AGREEMENT with Mr Recruit Ong that Singlish be our NATIONAL LANGUAGE when and if Singapore becomes a nation. As it is MM LKY has confirmed it is not.


that Mr Recruit Ong will not relate himself back to his ancestors.


Anonymous said...

Rex comments on recruit ong's post.

My dear friend.
Singlish is perverted English. It is an adulteration of something nice and clean. As long as you know chinese, you will understand that the pathetic nature of singlish is because of direct chinese constructs: examples:
1. Where got? 哪有?
2. He like that one. 他是这样的.
3. Got sell ? 有卖吗?
4. What he so like that为什么他这样
5. I never went that day那天我没去
There are so many sickening ridiculous constructs that you hear everyday, spoken by small kids, by parents shamelessly. Yes you find it funny and ok, that;s because you understand chinese, you know what the speaker is saying. But it is a very narrow minded view.
Pity the poor young kid who is not taught chinese and then starts with such broken english from day 1 of baby's life.

If one cannot manage and speak english as well as say Mr Lee Kuan Yew, or Mr Chee Soon Juan, it is better that one starts off speaking in good, well toned chinese dialect or mandarin to one's offsprings. We must give the best of our best to our children, surely.

For adults it is not a big issue, this singlish because we are to-date quite close to the original chinese dialect and mandarin influences. Like you, i also laugh it off and forget about it. I only worry the impact two generations later. We have a responsibility to transmit truth and correctness to the next generation and beyond. You have to think like a politician, far far ahead, not just for today and this month's salary.

Asians must stand tall and be comfortable with their heritage, which is rich and full of wisdom. English is merely a useful tool. Like a changkul. You use it everyday to build things but at home you don't want always want to see too much of it.


C H Yak said...

"Spore got its own culture what! Singlish lah, and that is part of the Spore culture whether the purists like it or not."

I must agree with Rex that Singlish is certainly not "culture". It is just an "improvised" language tool. Whether such an "improvised" language tool can have cultural linkage is certainly debatable.

"Rojak" fried together is nice to eat, but it is still a side dish or appetiser. We need a "full course" to have cultural heritage...whether Malay Food, Chinese Food or even a mix of both Chinese and Malay (Peranekan).

Anonymous said...

Dear Rex,
Looking at all the PRC in the coffeeshops, in the trains, buses, markets, at Geylang, (some say at Toa Payoh!) I agree with you that they are very cultured. They are so cultured you can spot them a mile away!

Anonymous said...

aiyo, read properly can? I am against reducing weightage. In fact i call for INCREASED weightage of for both 1st and 2nd Lang at pri sch level.


recruit ong

Anonymous said...

rex comments on may14 10.00 pm post.

in my opinion, you are mixing up specific individual personalities (the boisterous groups you were noticing) with the bigger discussion we are having about culture.

If you go to Leicester Square in London at 10pm, or hang out near Times Square in New York, you also will see boisterous people. They are everywhere except Singapore, because in Singapore we are brought up like automatons (as expressed by another commentor) and we are ever so fearful to express our thoughts and opinions a little bit more openly. So when we see people making merry, or openly saying something which matters a lot to them, we think they are not cultured. In Singapore when we are not happy we bottle up and keep to ourselves and write silly blogs like what we are doing. Many people in the world are not like that. I think your swipe at the foreigners are tangential to the discussion, sorry to say that.


Anonymous said...

aiyo rex, let u win lah.

but one thing i will say to you and your kind specifically regarding singlish... language and culture is organic, it changes and evolves over time. Wat u hold dear today or condemn as perverse, may after a period of time becomes accepted vernacular. This is an inescapable fact, just like all dictatorships must surely come apart one day so will lang and culture evolve, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. it may take a long time.. u never know, so dont be too sure of anything.

sometimes one must learn to let go lah... heh

anyway hv a gd weekend.


recruit ong

Anonymous said...

rex comments as follows,

hello pal recruit ong
I still cannot let go of this. It is important because if anyone should ever think that when grammatical rules of english are consistently broken long enough, it becomes "correct", than we as parents have failed in our duty to give the best of the best to our children.

I want to repeat a point, it is not about this generation, you and I. You and i belong to the generation where the chinese language was vibrant so we feel the sentence constructs are strange but ok lah. Deep inside our conscience, we have the solid confidence of the chinese background so we can laugh it off these silly grammar errors. We could live with it. But the problem is really the future generations. If kids grow up not being corrected when they make ridiculous grammar mistakes, starting from baby life, they will be the laughing stock of the Enlgish community. They can't have this broken rubbish as mother tongue.

For you and I we are ok, because we can always fall back to chinese, but for a kid who habitually speaks broken english because their parents ignore and think it is "ok", this is a social cancer which can be seen only 20 years later when the kid realise that he is but an empty shell trying to believe he is English speaking naturally and mother tongue is english.

If anything the dilemma of language amongst the chinese singpaoreans is attributable to mothers who willfully, consciencesly dump their chinese speaking habits (dialect is perfectly good if mandarin is not practical) and poison the child with a cancer they can only see one or two generaions down when they have lost the abiliy to connect with the greater whole that is part of their genes.


Dave Tan said...

It seems that Singapore's language landscape is changing fast. Is the MTL really that relevant anymore? I believe it is in the keeping to our roots but i'm not sure how commercially relevant it is in Singapore. A hot debate no less.

Denise said...

I feel that it is unfair to reduce weightage of MTL in PSLE as some people are really good in that subject. By reducing the weightage, we are putting those particular students at an disadvantage. All people have something they're good in, be it math, science, MTL or english. For people who say that MTL is simply an added extra subject with no usage, then others can say that english is also an extra subject. It's the 21st Century now and we need both languages as a basis for jobs, etc. All education systems are basically promoting two languages.

A 2nd language, I believe, should be a language the student likes. The range should be basically be any type of language they like (e.g. japanese, german, french, etc). However, I feel that a 2nd language is a must in today's society. Some students even opt to take on a 3rd language in Secondary School.

Hence, when people say that Chinese is too hard to learn and it's weightage should be reduced, I have some honest advice for you. The language does not become harder, it's the students' determination that becomes weaker. I, personally am a student that takes up a 3rd language (Japanese), and I am doing fairly well in all 3 languages, although it does require hard work, as I am not a very bright student.

hihi said...

part 1 -

I guess we are not as good as china, taiwan and india and malaysia in terms of native cultures, language width and depth(we need to examine the motivation behind) because we studied simplified versions of languages, also like chinese there is olden books(like gu wen-ancient languagues, cheng yu, yan yu, xie hou yu), they are very culturally cultured and is of good depth at least and knows how to apply human ethics and values and way of the life, but with the commercialization of societies including the language, our next generations will suffer in long term due to weak mother tongue(for example they cant understand certain more complicated language books and therefore cannot comprehend certain important ethical or humane values which builds the person and eventually the society) and we the older generation will suffer also...

i guess because lots of "VIPs" like the ministers, pm, mps or even educational officers they speak or write or is conversant with english only, so this mother tongue policy is to help their off springs rather than help the whole nation.. the motive behind new mother tongue policy is important. conscience again is important...

Just like english is preferred, western medicine is preferred, chinese medicine is not, but the authorities are myopic as chinese medicine is actually can be a good branch to help people and commercialize, maybe a lot of western doctors in singapore and even the authorities got too much interest and control and power and commercial interest, that is why like china where eastern and western medicine is combined, they would biased well towards english medicine.. government should recognize and systemize chinese medicine including mc before CHINA or even taiwan starts to do that as it is great potential, also help chinese practitioners and medicine raise image before other countries or bodies does that.. There should be certain general practitioner or specialist also, since there are cases of "specialist" overcharge..

Chinese practitioner should revamp through their systems and also branding to help themselves......

hihi said...

part ii(final)

some contents of poison in chinese medicine is good for curing certain sickness, so the appropiate approved content should be there instead of banning them...

Chinese medicine practitioner should unit including the bodies that control them, hopefully the western medicine is not controlling chinese medicine.

coming back to the issue, the mother tongue like english or tamil or malay should be as heavy weight as english and also more interactive is fine, but verbal, writing, computing, culturally should be explored... We need to examine how to be better than taiwan, chinese, india, malaysia and indonesia NATURALLY without complicating things..

For a suggestion, there should be road or board signs of chinese, malay and tamil along with english to prove importance of mother tongue.

Btw, please buy and eurofighters(i know from internet) for singapore(as it is more superior in terms of speed and defence and fighting) capabilities than f15, f18, f16s f14s), please help ourselves..

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