Summary: Singapore’s former prime minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew shared his concerns over the erosion of the Chinese language. He said that "Many younger Singaporeans may now lose out from not being able to speak Mandarin, he said, stressing that Chinese Singaporeans who gave up Chinese were losing ‘something very valuable’. They would lack self-confidence as ethnic Chinese and would also not be able to take advantage of the rise of China and its attractive market of 1.3 billion people." Language is a curious thing in this multi-cultural country with four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. In school, lessons are conducted in English but a second language is mandatory. There have been various campaigns encouraging Singaporeans to both “Speak Good English” and remember how “cool” their mother tongues can be. Singaporeans are told from a young age that our bilingualism is an asset. But, it is easy to forget just how difficult it is to be effectively bilingual. One has to be constantly exposed to both languages in different forms – books, TV, and music – and in association with different subject matter – news, pop culture, and technical jargon – to keep them in tiptop condition. Attending mandatory language classes from the ages of 7-19 does not automatically make one fluent. How we speak is indelibly tied to our sense of self. It encompasses how we think, how we communicate and how others perceive us.
Opinion: I feel that learning and mastering our Mother Tongue is equally important if not more important than English. As the Chinese market gets stronger each day, the importance of the Chinese language becomes more and more significant. Apart from the economic reasons, our Mother Tongue also signifies our cultural roots and values. Over the years, the increasing Western influence have caused an erosion in our Asian cultures and values. Therefore, by mastering our mother tongue, we can retain our roots and cultures as true Asians.
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