Singapore: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew writing new book with his Chinese tutor

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Sep 27 16:15:05 UTC 2007

Mr Lee writing new book with his Chinese tutor

Thursday • September 27, 2007

Daphne Chuah
daphne at

HE was responsible for pushing English to be the country's lingua
franca. But the policy has been so successful that Minister Mentor Lee
Kuan Yew is now starting to worry that many Singaporeans will soon
forget their mother tongues altogether. To help Singaporeans have a
better understanding of these languages, Mr Lee will be collaborating
with his personal Chinese tutor, Dr Chua Chee Lay, on a new book on
the subject.

The book, based on the theme of "one people, one language, different
mother tongues", will trace the evolution of language policy in
Singapore since its independence, Dr Chua told reporters yesterday.
"We're dealing with mother-tongue learning as a whole; not only
Mandarin", but also Malay and Tamil. "We want Singaporeans to
understand it's very important to retain their mother tongues because
it is our roots. At the same time, it's very important to master
English since we use this to communicate with the world," said Dr
Chua, the chief executive of CL Lab, a private language school.

Dr Chua will interview Mr Lee for further insights into language
policy changes over the years and the reasons behind them. The
successes and failures of Singapore's language policy will also be
discussed. "The book will record the dislocation and hardships in
communication between grandparents and grandchildren — one speaking in
dialect, the other replying in Mandarin, with incomplete understanding
of each other," said Mr Lee.

Slated to launch next September, what distinguishes the new book,
which will be published by World Scientific, is that "30 per cent will
reflect the voice of the people", said Dr Chua. People have been
invited to recount their language-learning experiences and how the
language policy affected their lives. One of them is Nanyang Primary
School principal Heng Boey Hong, who said: "I grew up in a
bilingual-policy environment, so I had the opportunity to learn
Chinese and English. My daughter speaks good English and Mandarin, but
has lost her ability to converse in Teochew."

Those interested in contributing to the project can email Dr Chua at
clchua at

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