Why Indian students are taking up study of the Chinese language

Why Indian students are taking up study of the Chinese language

"The market is all about Mandarin nowadays," says Mr Sukhdew Singh, whose eight-year-old daughter and five- year-old son are learning Chinese in school and kindergarten.

"When you look at job listings, many of them ask for Mandarin-speaking applicants. I decided to let them take up Chinese, because it will help them move further in their career in future," he added.

His daughter, Krisnathajit Kaur, a student of Canossa Convent Primary School, is coping well with some coaching from her tuition teacher, and scores well in her Chinese exams.

In Singapore, it is compulsory for every student to take up a Mother Tongue language. The languages recognised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and offered in local schools are Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

A non-Tamil Indian may choose to take Tamil or Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu for the PSLE. These are often offered at separate schools in centralised locations most of the time. These schools are dedicated to the teaching of these languages.

Freelance writer Malavika Nataraj, who has opted for Chinese as a second language for both her daughters aged six and four, said knowing Chinese will be highly useful when they complete their education and begin to look for work.

She said: "I believe that Chinese will have more relevance on the global stage than an Indian language and will be more useful later, when they decide to work. I also see us living outside of India and so feel it's more important to learn an Asian language that will be useful for work."

She added that her elder daughter who is going to start Primary 1 next year at a local school also likes the language, and shows an aptitude for it.

Like Mr Singh, Ms Nataraj has also hired a tutor to help her daughter with her schoolwork.

Senior engineer Krishnakumar M. and his wife Dr Chitra, who moved to Singapore from India and are not Tamil, decided to enrol their daughter Niranjana Krishna for Hindi and Chinese lessons instead of Tamil.

Said Dr Chitra, president of the cultural society Soorya (Singapore), which promotes classical fine arts: "For us Indians, the choice is between Tamil and NTIL (Non-Tamil Indian Language). So, being non-Tamil we decided on Hindi as we had learned Hindi in school and we thought we could help her.

"But we found that Niranjana seemed to enjoy learning Chinese and was doing well in the language in pre-school so we continued her Chinese lessons in primary school."

Niranjana studied Chinese in school till Primary 5, since her Hindi classes were held only on weekends at the Hindi school. In Primary 6, her school started teaching Hindi during mother tongue periods, so she started attending the Hindi lessons and stopped her Chinese lessons. But she took Chinese again as a third language in secondary school through the Chinese Special Programme (CSP).

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