5/06/2010

The mother tongue debate

This perennial problem is resurfacing again with the MOE sending out signals that the weightage will be lowered. The two camps have their valid arguments. The pro mother tongue group see the emotional and cultural importance of their language and identity being eroded. The pragmatists just would not bother about such 'wishy washy' sentiments. All they are concerned is the utility value of the mother tongue. And if they couldn't see any value in it, and if it is too difficult for them to learn, too high an opportunity cost, do away with it. Lump it and move on. All of us went through this process of learning and schooling as children and as parents or would be parents. Learning something is never easy, especially when the heart is not there, and able to see any value in it. I had my difficulties in learning languages as well but more because of the lack of interest, neglect and not willing to put in the effort. I hardly read anything when young, not even the text books unless compelled to. Under such circumstances you can expect my grades for all the languages, Malay, Chinese and English, all bordering on the red. Eventually both Malay and Chinese were dropped and all I had now is pasar Melayu and fortunately still able to make a decent conversation in Chinese, and able to recognise some words to get by. But I regretted not doing more for these languages as their utility values are much more than I thought. They become very useful and essential when travelling around, Malaysia, Indonesia and further away. How to flirt with the mei meis if one does not know Chinese, or the sayangs if one does not know Malay: ) On the part of mother tongue, the older one gets, the more one gets sentimental and emotional to it. It is part of one's identity, one's root. It can be quite embarrassing and uncomfortable in situation when one is expected to know one's mother tongue. But of course if one has erased the meaning of race in one's mind and make up, then mother tongue is totally irrevelant. And one can stand up tall and proudly proclaim that one does not know any word about one's mother tongue and would not be bothered to know. And my English was just as bad. Nearly failed at O level, or actually failed. That was bad huh. I only picked up when I started to read more and write more. There was an urge to read and a necessity to write when one wants to submit a paper for a grade. And the more one reads, the more one writes, the easier it becomes. Be it English or mother tongue, it is the usage, the constant use of the language that makes it easy to learn. If one is from a home that does not use mother tongue, and does not make any effort to make it a working language, it is tough, sure. Let's see how Eng Hen addresses this emotional and sentimental issue in the face of the protest from the utilitarians.

13 comments:

Wally Buffet said...

Before one excels in an "international" language like English, one must be proficient, nay, one must master one's own mother tongue first. This is not only essential because of one's cultural heritage but a matter of pride as well.

I have never ever met a caucasian that cannot speak his own language well but I have met lots of Chinese who doesn't even speak a word of Mandarin, let alone the dialects. They can't even swear in the colourful Hokkien dialect for christ sake! I have utterly no respect for such zombies.

Reducing the mother tongue weightage as far as I am concerned is a political ploy. The clan associations have every right to be concerned that we will be breeding a nation of neither here nor there citizens. We can have unity in diversity but a country of Indians, Malays and Chinese speaking nothing except English? We'll be the laughing stock of the world and an aberration. That's what is going to happen if you start to degrade the standard of learning by pandering to the bananas.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans have a leadership that goes everywhere exhorting non english to use the english language.

Recently in Shanghai and earlier in Japan the Anglocised MM again did the same thing. When told that the Japanese and the Chinese did and are doing well without the use of the english language; he replied that they would do better with knowledge of english. There seems only one thing in the mind of the MM, he is too maney minded. He just simply cannot see the trade offs and latent damages that will be done on ones tradition and culture. Oh, his brain is eclipsed by money and his soul can be sold for money.

Anyway, I have long lost any respect for him.

patriot

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans have a leadership that goes everywhere exhorting non english to use the english language.

Recently in Shanghai and earlier in Japan the Anglocised MM again did the same thing. When told that the Japanese and the Chinese did and are doing well without the use of the english language; he replied that they would do better with knowledge of english. There seems only one thing in the mind of the MM, he is too maney minded. He just simply cannot see the trade offs and latent damages that will be done on ones tradition and culture. Oh, his brain is eclipsed by money and his soul can be sold for money.

Anyway, I have long lost any respect for him.

patriot

Matilah_Singapura said...

What's all the fuss about mother tongue? Any level headed person (which excludes me, BTW) will know instantly that this is a debate with no definitive answer.

Therefore it is my conclusion that this is an issue purposely raised to get peoples' minds off the fact that the govt is running around like a headless chicken.

In my distorted view of reality, the best use for a mother's tongue is to lick the father's balls and cock head. In that way we have to thank our mum's because if not for their lingual deftness none of us might ever be conceived.

So respect your mother's tongue.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

That's how important is the mother tongue.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

This is a great opportunity for Singapore to create a new identity, like the so called 'international citizen' that some have been branding themselves all these years.

Do away with anything that is difficult or have no economic value. Mother tongue is the first to go. What else to throw? Maths and Science also very difficult subjects. Throw away also. Just read English will do, the easiest subject to study.

In its place introduce more sports, football or whatever that is popular. Yes, roller blade, hip hop, etc etc.

Revamp our education and school system to one that make all the students and parents happy. Make paradise a happy place for all the residents.

Kyaw Kyaw Naing / George said...

(1) We mush empahsize Mother Tongue. I suggest 3 extra hours for all Primary School kids.

(2) We mush empahsize Maths. I suggest 3 extra hours for all Primary School kids.


(3) We mush empahsize Science. I suggest 3 extra hours for all Primary School kids.


(4) We mush empahsize English. I suggest 3 extra hours for all Primary School kids.

You see,
health(physical, mental, psychological)

friendhip,

responsibility, accountability,

moral values, etc

can wait till they retire in about 2070.

Is this is clear?

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Welcome to the blog.

Yes you made an important point. And I shall add, we must include subjects like how to make money and more money, and greed is good. That will be complete for the good of future generation : )

Being pragmatic is good. But if we forget who we are, that we are human beans and not economic animals, then living is for a totally different purpose.

Anonymous said...

I suggest we should go to India and tell the Indians that it is a waste of time learning all the different dialects. Just learn English will do. And likewise to Malaysia, Indonesia and China and tell them to do the same, learn English, so easy and so useful.

Anonymous said...

Forget about mother tongue. People speak all in snake tongues nowadays. Politicians, bankers, financial experts, rating agents, lawyers and union chiefs - all have forked-tongues.

Matilah_Singapura said...

I think the perfect woman would have a forked tongue. My mind boggles with the possibilities of how forked-tongued women could create and evolve various new and as yet impossible ways of pleasing men (or other women, depending on... well whatever...)

There is little doubt in my mind that in time, forked-tongued women who have developed a high degree of skill in the area of "lingually-based stimulation" will eventually rule the world and possibly the universe. ;)

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

They should have created women that way : )

My apologies ladies, just kidding.

Anonymous said...

Heritage means nothing to the Money Minded and the Pragmatist.

patriot