Today the Straits Times Forum has a letter which fortifies Mr Wang's conclusions, although ironically that would not have been the letter-writer's intentions.
Nov 18, 2005The writer has offered three examples of situations where he felt disadvantaged or embarrassed due to his lack of ability in the Mandarin language. Mr Wang will now briefly comment on these three examples.
LAMENT OF AN EARLY BABY BOOMER
He regrets he doesn't speak Mandarin
IT IS strange that younger English-speaking Singaporeans have been targeted in this year's Speak Mandarin Campaign. Being products of a bilingual education, surely there is an implicit tendency to speak the language without the need for exhortation. It is not a question of being Chinese but a matter of 'use it or lose it'. They are fortunate to be bilingual.
Hailing from the earliest baby-boomer generation, the second language was not a compulsory subject for my contemporaries and me and we were not exhorted to learn it. As a result, we missed out on many opportunities and, worse, were subjected to embarrassment in many situations.
I was in Beijing in the mid-1990s to set up my company's China office. Throughout my time there I had an interpreter and it was very awkward, especially when the Chinese knew I was from Singapore where it is a given that you are bilingual. I must admit I felt ashamed.
Then, there was the holiday trip to Guilin. I was the only person in the group of 26 that could not understand the tour guide and missed out on all the great stories he told.
At home, though I watch Channel 8, I had to develop a quick eye to read the English subtitles to understand the story. I would have enjoyed the shows much more if only I could understand and speak Mandarin.
So, to the younger English-speaking Singaporeans, here is my advice: do not do away with Mandarin, speak it as often as possible. Do not let your language ability atrophy, or you will feel the loss. However, do not put down people who cannot speak and understand Mandarin.
Harry Chia Kim Seng
The Holiday Trip to Guilin.. The writer forgot to inform you that you could just as well take a holiday to Thailand, France or Japan. In those cases, you would suffer similar disadvantages due to your not knowing Thai, French or Japanese. On the other hand, none of us have the time to learn all the many different useful languages in the world.
The Channel 8 TV shows. Mr Wang will only say that you're not missing much. If you do not watch these shows at all, Mr Wang doubts that your quality of life has suffered to any significant extent.
Setting up the China office. Mr Wang agrees that for career reasons, it may be useful to learn Mandarin. See Mr Wang's earlier post. That, however, is to Mr Wang the only really compelling reason for considering making the effort to learn (or relearn) Mandarin.
Technorati Tags: Singapore, Speak Mandarin Campaign, Mandarin, Straits Times.