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Vital to speak in mother tongue
Tue, Dec 01, 2009
my paper

I REFER to the wave of comments in the wake of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's suggestions for a change in teaching styles of Chinese teachers in a speech on Nov 17.

I am an 18-year-old Chinese Singaporean student who took Express Chinese, Higher Chinese and Literature in Chinese at O levels.

My worst encounter with a Chinese-language teacher was when I was a Primary 2 pupil, when I was made to write around 30 pages' worth of words in my penmanship booklet for a day's homework.

Nevertheless, I thank the penmanship training for my rather presentable handwriting today.

Chinese lessons today are more simplified. I notice in my brother's primary-school textbook that hanyu pinyin is provided for every single word, such that he used to not bother about Chinese characters.

His penmanship practices are also much less taxing than those I used to do.

The Ministry of Education has made Chinese language easier for students nowadays, with a Chinese B curriculum.

However, being Chinese, it is only right that one learns and is able to speak in his mother tongue.

The pride that some Chinese Singaporeans seem to show over being unable to speak Mandarin or understand the Chinese language is unfathomable.

This is even more so when we hear about how those of other ethnicities are eager to learn Chinese.

If people are willing to pay high fees to acquaint themselves with Chinese language and culture, why are there some Singaporeans who complain about learning it as part of their basic education in government schools?

For Chinese students, the Chinese language is a window to our roots and identity.

Though I may not know Chinese history like the back of my hand, I am at least able to speak and write in the same language as my ancestors.

Altering teaching styles does not mean lowering the Chinese standards of students.

Perhaps as Chinese-language teachers change their teaching styles, they can inject more substance into lessons to make students more receptive to their own culture.

Miss Stephanie Yeo


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