Plugging Mother tongue gap in Singapore

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Mar 16 19:41:13 UTC 2005

Anthea, thanks!

One thing I wasn't sure of: is Malay the (main) language used in the
military in Singapore, and is that one reason the troops dispatched to
Aceh were expected to (but didn't) understand Indonesian?


On Wed, 16 Mar 2005, Anthea Fraser Gupta wrote:

> Those who want to know more about the socio-political definition of
> 'mother-tongue' in Singapore should look at my webpages! The 'mother
> tongue' is allocated on the basis of paternal ancestry. All children
> must study English (and nearly all education is in English-medium) plus
> the 'mother-tongue' which is taught also in the context of supporting a
> person's ancestral culture. The paternal lineage problem is very
> difficuly for children of mixed ethnicity. Malay is associated with the
> Malay ethnic group and with Islam, but of course (as this article says)
> is an important language of commmunication with Singapore's neighbours,
> especially with Indonesia where English is not as widely known as it is
> in Malaysia.
> Malay has been available for some years as a 'third language' for
> Singaporean children, but was taken up by very few. Back in 1994 I
> called for Mandarin to be available for non-Chinese children: as
> Mandarin is Singapore's second most important language the exclusion
> from learning it in school disempowers many ethnic minority children. I
> notice this article doesn't mention promoting Mandarin cross-ethnically.
> This article calls for two things that I personally would support:
> 1) more opportunity for free choice of the language studied in addition
> to English;
> 2) more encouragement of the learning of languages in addition to the
> two required ones.
> Anthea
> *     *     *     *     *
> Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
> School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
> <>
> NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at
> *     *     *     *     *

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