Mother tongue a matter of emotion, not intellect

Mother tongue a matter of emotion, not intellect

I used to think that the fate of the Chinese language was a concern only of the Mandarin-speaking community here, which has repeatedly raised the issue in Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

That was until I read Mr Jenson Seah Guo Long's letter ("Young S'poreans losing touch with Chinese language"; Forum Online, last Thursday), which was the most commented-on letter for that day.

It is gratifying to know that English-speaking Chinese Singaporeans also acknowledge the worrying trend raised by Mr Seah.

Why are young Singaporeans losing touch with the Chinese language?

The answer lies in pragmatism. Many young Singaporeans have neglected the Chinese language in favour of other school subjects.

The mindset of "just English will do" has become deeply rooted in our English-dominated society.

Mother tongue is about emotion, not intellect. It defines our identity. One must master the mother tongue to appreciate its beauty, and thus enhance cultural and social literacy.

Chinese Singaporeans should follow the example set by the Malay community here, which is conscientious about preserving its mother tongue.

I have observed my Malay friends and found that, apart from speaking English in a social setting, Malay is their common language.

My Malay business associate always carries a copy of Malay daily Berita Harian with him.

As my life and workplace are dominated by English, I make a commitment to read Lianhe Zaobao every day.

Chinese Singaporeans should make an effort to do the same. The young will be a pivotal force in charting the course of our mother tongue languages.

(ST reader, Paul Yong Teck Chong)

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