You may read about his letter below but all I have to say is he is talking rubbish!
Having a greater set of Linguistic skill (the spoken form) should be "the more the merrier". By advocating just Mandarin means we can get more business in China??? What logic is that? I think our secretary really needs to go to China himself and see for himself. Or even talk to some our foreign talents and see what they think about their dialect.
Having an extra set of Linguistic skill helps in getting a job! Take a living example of me. I am born and raised in a Cantonese speaking environment. I am able to speak in Cantonese, Hokkien (I took this up in my secondary and army days), Chinese, English and recently, Thai (which I am still learning). My current job requires me to speak in Cantonese as our clients are in Hong Kong and China. And out of 11 in my team, only 2 of us are locals (the rests are either PR or Malaysians). And all of them are capable of speaking in Chinese, English, Cantonese and Malay!! If they could do it, why can't we. (thought they always have the concept that Singaporeans have a better education?)
Even the Thailand local born Chinese I met are able to speak Teochew, Hokkien, Yunan dialect and etc etc and these languages skills helped them in their business dealings in China.
And like if we cut away the dialect. Our standard of English and Mandarin will improve. What a joke. Just listen to any kids on the street speak English or Chinese nowadays will make me boil. Fills with nothing but Singlish and slangs. And does dialect really hinders the learning of Mandarin? Again, my sister and I are living proof that this is wrong. My sis was in the Advance Chinese (Chinese as 1st language same as English that time)Class and my Chinese scores are always higher than my English. My cousins and friends who speak dialects at home are also doing well. So speaking in dialect does not really affect the standards at all. I have no idea where did that came from anyway.....
Foolish to advocate the learning of dialects
I REFER to yesterday’s article by Ms Jalelah Abu Baker (’One generation - that’s all it takes ‘for a language to die”). It mentioned a quote from Dr Ng Bee Chin, acting head of Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies: ‘Although Singaporeans are still multilingual, 40 years ago, we were even more multilingual. Young children are not speaking some of these languages at all any more.’
To keep a language alive, it has to be used regularly. Using one language more frequently means less time for other languages. Hence, the more languages a person learns, the greater the difficulties of retaining them at a high level of fluency.
There are linguistically gifted individuals who can handle multiple languages, but Singapore’s experience over 50 years of implementing the bilingual education policy has shown that most people find it extremely difficult to cope with two languages when they are as diverse as English and Mandarin.
This is why we have discouraged the use of dialects. It interferes with the learning of Mandarin and English. Singaporeans have to master English. It is our common working language and the language which connects us with the world.
We also emphasised the learning of Mandarin, to make it the mother tongue for all Chinese Singaporeans, regardless of their dialect groups. This is the common language of the 1.3 billion people in China. To engage China, overseas Chinese and foreigners are learning Mandarin and not the dialects of the different Chinese provinces.
We have achieved progress with our bilingual education in the past few decades. Many Singaporeans are now fluent in both English and Mandarin. It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.
That was the reason the Government stopped all dialect programmes on radio and television after 1979. Not to give conflicting signals, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew also stopped making speeches in Hokkien, which he had become fluent in after frequent use since 1961.
Chee Hong Tat
Principal Private Secretary
to the Minister Mentor