Views of a child born to Chinese-educated S'poreans.Was reading Mr Wang's blog when I chanced on a debate on the usefulness and role of Mandarin in Singapore. Some say Mandarin is part of our identity (ethnic chinese), while others say we are S'poreans not PRC Chinese so there isn't a need to know Mandarin. Some say with the rise of China there is much economic value in knowing Mandarin, while others assert that S'pore is still English dominated and even if one wants do deals in China there isn't a need for him/her to know Mandarin at all.
However since both of my parents are Chinese educated, I understand how they feel about the Chinese language issue. Like what the article in Zaobao has said, they have a lingering resentment on how they have been marginalised by the PAP government. However they too understand that the situation is irreversible and the English first policy have done Singapore much good. My parents have encourage me and my sis to master English, while not neglecting our Mandarin. They also sent both me and my sis to an English speaking country for our university education. They are not some Chinese chauvinists who want to force Mandarin down people throats. They just want to help the culture and language they loved to survive and hopefully flourish in the place they called home.
Here is the translation of the article.
Views of an old Chinese-educated S'porean
By Han Tan Juan
In his National Day Rally Mandarin speech this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong referred to entertainer Jack Neo's recent talk show in which the latter interpreted "jing ying" as Singaporeans who are proficient in the English language and "jing hua" as those who are well-versed in the Chinese language.
Here is an undeniable fact: "Jing ying" enjoys higher status than "jing hua" in the government service, job market and business sector, which is why it is the goal of many parents to get their children to become "jing ying" and not "jing hua".
In Singapore, the "gold content" or value of the English language far surpasses that of Chinese.
Singaporeans who are not proficient in English often find themselves coming up against a wall. After a while, even the dumbest will learn his lesson.
Mr Lee disagreed with Jack Neo's talk about old Chinese-educated Singaporeans as being the disappearing "jing hua". "This is a long-running serial and the best shows are yet to come", he said.
If I understand Mr Lee's comment correctly, the cast in the shows must be elite who have an excellent command of both the English and Chinese languages.
He also noted that the older generation of Chinese-educated Singaporeans are becoming more active and some have even taken up university courses. This is an encouraging phenomenon.
I believe Mr Lee wanted to boost the morale of this group of Singaporeans. But I think it is more important to know why these Singaporeans feel discouraged.
Having suffered for decades for being handicapped in English and having been marginalised for years, I'd be lying if I say we do not feel demoralised at all.
We no longer have the youthful passion for change. We just want to preserve our "spiritual home" - our undying love for the Chinese culture which we will never give up.
And there is something that we would very much like to speak up but is afraid to - the fear of being labelled as Chinese chauvinists.
Some years back, some of us had expressed unhappiness about the lack of Chinese signs at MRT stations. The authorities had responded then by saying that signs cluttered with words would not be pleasing to the eye.
Meanwhile, well-meaning people had cautioned us against getting into trouble over the "sensitive issue" of language.
Once bitten, twice shy. It's a lingering fear that refuses to go away.
I believe the majority of the older generation of Chinese-educated Singaporeans no longer view the People's Action Party government the way they used to.
We are well aware of the big picture - that under the leadership of the government, Singapore has prospered and become an affluent society where most people are able to live comfortably.
Even though we have been disadvantaged in the past, we place the overall interest of the nation above all and have no problems affirming the contribution of this government.
This change of attitude should be both ways - the PAP government should also see us in a new light.
The differences and conflicts in the past are now history and we should not allow history to repeat itself.
We are aware that we just do not have the environment that is needed to restore Chinese as the first language in our schools.
We recognise that English is the dominant language and we encourage our children to master it. But we do hope that parents who are English-educated can also urge their children to learn the Chinese language well.
If we in the past could persevere in our efforts to pick up English, why can't they now show a little determination in learning Chinese?
There is no need for our leaders or the English-educated elite to worry that English will become less important.
As I see it, the real challenge for the English-educated elite is that their dominance may one day be threatened by a younger generation that is proficient in both English and Chinese, or both "jing ying" and "jing hua".