Singapore's pseudo mother tongues.

R. A. Stegemann moogoonghwa at
Thu Mar 17 01:53:08 UTC 2005

Dear list members,

For a more balanced view of the language situation in Singapore you
might also like to have a look at the following webpage. It contains
many useful graphs, whose content has been carefully resourced and can
be obtained from me, if the links are no longer available from the
Singaporean government.


Defining one's mother tongue in Singapore involves much more than
identifying one's paternal ancestry. In fact, for most Singaporeans it
appears that their so-called mother tongue is a second language.

Also, the reason that most Singaporeans speak such poor English is very
similar to that found in Hong Kong. I would not recommend that every
Singaporean be compelled to study English.

See you again on Friday. Well,  I am still hoping anyway.


R. A. Stegemann (Hamo)
EARTH's Manager and HKLNA-Project Director
EARTH - East Asian Research and Translation in Hong Kong
Tel/Fax: 852 2630 0349

On 17 Mar 2005, at 03:35, 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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