Monday, January 18, 2010

Learning Languages

Just some weeks ago, Minister Mentor Lee had told Singaporeans that it is near impossible to be a master of two languages and in the context of Singapore, these two languages are English and mother tongue. With the majority of Singaporeans being Chinese, Minster Mentor Lee has acknowledged that it is difficult for an average Chinese Singaporean student to master both languages at the same time. I truly agree with Minister Mentor as over my growing up years, I can really admit that I am better in Chinese/ Mandarin as compared to English.This does not mean that my English is not good or lousy; I write and speak English to a fair degree of decency, just that deep in my heart, there is one master language which I know I am better at and which I have mastered to a higher level of competency than the other, which others may not know. Similarly for you and others, up close and personal, you will know the language that they would have mastered better than the other.

I believe family upbringing exerts a paramount and integral influence on which language a growing child is better in. If a child comes from a Mandarin-speaking background, inevitably, he would grow up, more conversant in Mandarin and better in Chinese. Similarly, if a child comes from an English-speaking family, he would grow up to be better in English.

I just watched a reality show on Channel 8 which featured a normal child being born and brought up by a mute couple who could not speak. As a result, the normal child now could not speak a single word and could only relate and converse with others using the languages he is taught in: sign language. I pity the child as his parents are not able to communicate with him and satisfy the myriads of curious questions he has about life. The child appeared to be frustrated as a result due to the fact that his parents could not communicate to him, understand his needs and satiate his curiosity needs.

No man is an island. The ability to speak and write well, make oneself understood by others is a key asset in today’s increasingly networked world!

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