[lg policy] Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew tells of his struggle with Chinese language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 21 15:09:24 UTC 2011

Lee Kuan Yew tells of his struggle with Chinese language

New book details his own experience and S'pore's bilingual policy

Published on Nov 21, 2011

The book tells of the policy challenges Mr Lee faced, including from
parents who wanted an easier time for their school-going children. It
also features a collection of essays by Singaporeans whose lives have
been touched by the bilingual policy in one way or another.

By Goh Sui Noi, Senior Correspondent

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has come out with a book on a
subject close to his heart: bilingualism. It will be launched next
Monday at the Singapore Conference Hall. Entitled My Lifelong
Challenge: Singapore's Bilingualism Journey, the book is the story of
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's 50-year struggle to transform Singapore from a
polyglot former British colony into a united nation where everyone,
while knowing English, knows at least one other language, his own
mother tongue.

The book tackles controversial issues such as the closure of Nanyang
University and the resistance of some communities and groups to the
introduction of the Speak Mandarin Campaign.
Background story

MY LIFELONG Challenge: Singapore's Bilingualism Journey has been read
with keen interest and received positive reviews from many local and
foreign personages, including the following:

    Mr Wee Cho Yaw, chairman of the United Overseas Bank Group, who
was Nanyang University Council chairman when Nantah was merged with
the University of Singapore: 'To many people of my generation Nantah
is more than a university. It represented the aspirations and idealism
of the South-east Asian Chinese. The Nantah 'spirit' of self-reliance
and strength in unity cut across social classes and national borders.
In the closing line of the Nantah chapter, Mr Lee Kuan Yew advised
that the spirit which inspired it (the university) deserves to be
treasured and embraced by future generations of Singaporeans. I
totally agree.'

    Mr Chua Thian Poh, chairman of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of
Commerce and Industry: 'This is a good book that deserves to be read
by every Singaporean, particularly parents who are still undecided
over how to create a positive second-language learning environment for
their children.'

    Ms Stefanie Sun, Mandopop singer who had to brush up on her
Mandarin to break into the Taiwan pop music market: 'As the world gets
'smaller', our red dot fights for its mark on the global community. If
you ever wondered how we got this far or what makes Singaporeans tick,
this book explains a lot through the eyes of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.'

    Professor Eddie Kuo Chen-Yu, Emeritus Professor, Wee Kim Wee
School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological
University: 'Mr Lee's... recounting of his family background and his
life experiences in learning several languages makes this book a
fascinating read.'

    Dr Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, who is an old
friend of Mr Lee's: 'Lee Kuan Yew's memoir of his journey toward
recognition of the value of state-supported bilingualism for his
polyglot nation is a fascinating chapter in the life and lessons of
one of the most innovative and successful leaders of our time. Candid
and illuminating, it has valuable insights for many countries
struggling to absorb an unprecedented flood of new immigrants.'

    Mr Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Company:
'This book comes at an important time for Singapore, which continues
to rigorously examine its language policies as it sets a course for
its next stage of development. It also comes at an important time for
the rest of the world - as other countries confront their own choices
as they overhaul their educational systems to take advantage of a
globally connected world.'

    Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Thailand: 'Now
that I am studying Chinese, he sometimes prefers to talk to me in

'By encouraging Singaporeans to be educated in English, he has made
Singapore global. By introducing Mandarin to Singaporean life, he has
opened up opportunities to the new century in which Chinese will be
the dominant language. I sincerely wish for the success of Mr Lee Kuan
Yew's... splendid exposition.'

'The founding prime minister of Singapore tells why he did away with
vernacular schools in spite of violent political resistance, why he
closed Nanyang University, why he later started Special Assistance
Plan schools, and why he continues to urge all ethnic Chinese
Singaporeans today to learn the Chinese language,' said a press
statement from Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which provided
editorial and publishing support for the book.


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