How Singapore Has Almost Wiped Out Its Mother Tongues
The Economist has analysed how Singapore has almost wiped out its Mother tongues off the country.
WHEN SANDY, a young Chinese Singaporean, learned that her grandmother was terminally ill, she signed up for a workshop in the Hokkien language run by LearnDialect.sg, a social enterprise founded to help Singaporeans communicate with the city-state’s older Chinese residents—including within their own families. Sandy is fluent in English and Mandarin, the official “mother tongue” of Chinese Singaporeans. Her grandmother spoke little of either. Before she died, Sandy thrilled her by asking in Hokkien, “What was your childhood like?” She was even able to understand some of the answer.
Their language barrier was the product of decades of linguistic engineering. English has been the language of instruction in nearly all schools since 1987, to reinforce Singapore’s global competitive edge. But, depending on ethnicity, pupils study a second language—typically Mandarin, Malay or Tamil.