Be it Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Australia or any other country in the world, teaching a child to communicate efficiently in mother tongue is extremely important. Mother tongue education is a form of schooling that a child receives in a language that he or she is most familiar with. It is usually the language they use to communicate with their parents back at home. While one must be wondering that ‘mother tongue’ might refer to the language one’s mother uses. But the original scenario is pretty much different. One’s mother tongue might be different from his or her mother’s mother tongue. So, what exactly is the importance of mother tongue in Singapore? Let us find out!
Children can easily speak multiple languages at home. For example, they might talk to their mother in one language, father in another, with their grandparents in a third and again in a completely different language with their friends. It is easy to pick up on multiple new things at a tender age. As a result, children seem to resort to the different forms of communication. Given this case, language, that their elders use in front of them.
In many places, schools often teach children in a language other than their mother tongue. In such cases, the most common thing that happens is the mother tongue becomes just another mere subject. One of the most used languages for teaching children all over the world is English. Why so? English is one such language that people all over the world use, understand and/or are fluent in. Such is the widespread reach of English that in many places, like in India, most schools teach their students with English as their first language. Fair or not, it is up to us to decide.
All About Bilingual Children And Their Communication Methods
Bilingual children are the ones who speak their mother tongue at home. But when at school, use another language for communication. While some children might face problems in understanding their studies due to the use of different languages. While some others really do ace it. Singapore is a city-state where people speak in multiple languages. Thus, it becomes necessary for the parents and the school authorities to educate the children in different languages. This way, if they are in any place where people do not know his or her mother tongue, he or she won’t face any problem. At least not because he does not know nothing about the language the others are using.
There are many bilingual institutions in Singapore that aim to teach children a second or a third language. They become equally talented in both the languages. Thus helping them prosper when they are in some other state or country. In such programmes, they give equal importance to learning both the languages. Thus the children are well-equipped to take the best from their multilingualism and biliteracy.
On the other hand, there are many such schools in Singapore that offer education only and only through one language. In some cases, it helps parents who want to educate their children only in their mother tongue. While in some other cases, the children are denied of the opportunity to receive a vast portion of education. In such institutions, it also happens that the authorities offer the children who are not fluent speakers of the school language some other language. So, it becomes extremely important for parents admitting their children to such places to run a proper background check of the school and only then go ahead with the formalities.
Should Mother Tongue Education Become A Norm?
According to many foundations in Singapore and in many other places of the world, mother tongue education should be a necessity and not just a norm. While many people still do not believe in this mindset, a large group of people also support this rigidly.
One might think that these foundations aim to educate children only in their mother tongues. But you will be wrong to think so. They believe that children should be given an equal opportunity to gain knowledge in their mother tongue. While at the same time learning about new things in other languages. If not, we are automatically forcing the child to miss out on a vast deal of knowledge which in future might curb his opportunity to prosper better in his chosen career or in any other scenario for that instance.
These foundations believe in a really noble thought. According to them, in today’s globalised world, all children must reap the good results of a multilingual education. This education, in turn, offers them an opportunity to become fluent in their mother tongues as well as in the official language of the state. Along with it, the institutions should also teach the children a few more languages that allow them to pursue higher education. It also helps to communicate at ease in multiple languages through different media and contribute their best to improve the conditions of the society.
Lee Kuan Yew, one of the longest serving Prime Ministers of Singapore highly believed in maintaining proper education in the mother tongue. He believed that the mother tongue can preserve one’s identity. He was a believer in bilingualism and also highly promoted it.
In the end, mother tongue education is all about creating a levelled playing field for children from all places, about creating equal prosperity opportunities regardless of class, economic status, educational background or geographic location.
Benefits And Importance Of Mother Tongue Education In Singapore
Although opposed by many, mother tongue education can actually be profitable for many children. Here are some of the main benefits of a proper mother tongue education for a child.
Children Learn Better
Children learn better than they do when taught in any other language than their mother tongue. Since they are always speaking at home in this language, it becomes easier for them to grasp various difficult things which would otherwise be tough if they had been taught in any other language.
Educating a child in his or her mother tongue also results in fast learning of the child. When at school the teacher teaches them in a language they are used to, they do not face difficulty in following what is being taught. They thus catch up with the lessons much faster as compared to other students who do not receive this form of education.
Easy To Follow And Grow
The use of mother tongue in educational institutions make the children feel at home rather than being in an uncomfortable place full of rules and restrictions to follow. As a result, when they can enjoy themselves freely, they can also interact with the teachers freely when they face any problem and can get it solved without any delays.
Growth Of Self-Esteem
Children with a proper education in their mother tongue also have an increased sense of self-esteem. It might so happen that they at times look down upon themselves when people are talking in a language they are not aware of. But when they have a strong command over their mother tongue, their self-esteem automatically increases and they tend to show confidence.
Better Growth Of A Child
Since parents play a vital part in every child’s life, mother tongue education helps the parents contribute towards their child’s growth. They can actively and easily take part in all of their child’s education related conversations and also help them with their homework. This, in turn, allows the child to prosper better in life and encourages them to do the same for their children.
Chance At A Better Future
Children trained in a multilingual way tend to enjoy higher socioeconomic status. They also tend to have higher earnings as compared to the ones knowing just one language. Thus, mother tongue education ultimately leads them to a better life. This some other form of education might not have been able to offer.
Repetition is a common problem in many schools all over the world. But when children resort to mother tongue education, the schools perform better on an average basis. And when can a school’s performance be judged to be better is known to us all. Or as we can say, when its students perform better.
Higher Attention Towards Studies
Another common problem in schools is children fleeing away, bunking classes or doing mischief. The most common reason behind these happening is the children feeling bored. It also happens due to not understanding what was being taught in class. But, when the children are taught in their mother tongue, it becomes easy for them to grasp the conversations going on in the class. And as a result, they pay more attention to their studies and do less mischief.
Better Intellectual Development
Children need to be fluent in their master tongue. Not just in using it while speaking, but also in other forms. Such children have shown to have higher cognitive development. They have also been found to have a better intellectual development than the others. This, in turn, leads to them performing better than other students in their studies. No wonder Singapore has such brilliant minds all over the country.
Develops A Better Connection With The Culture
What is that one most important thing that keeps one’s culture alive? It is none other than language. So, when a child receives proper education in its mother tongue and about its mother tongue, they form a better connection with their culture. Often, a direct or indirect translation of their mother tongue, or any language in that case, might not lead to form a similar bond. No matter however we try, the emotional connectivity is lost. The best possible way for a child to know about his or her culture is only through his or her mother tongue. In this case, we might also go ahead and say that one’s mother helps in connecting them to their roots.
Helps In Mastering A New Language
Like it is said often to every growing child, if you know the basics, you surely can master the art. Similarly, if a child is highly knowledgable in his or her mother tongue, it becomes much easier for him to master a new language. Being educated in mother tongue since childhood automatically leads a child to having stronger skills in other languages.
Imparts An Upper Hand In The Commercial Market
As we all know, when a person is conducting business on national grounds, local goes a long way. So, if your child is properly educated in his or her mother tongue, they are surely to bond better with the clients. Thus, leading to a better business growth and also in cases, a quicker success. It helps especially when one has decided to be an entrepreneur. It is so because in such cases, you yourself have to connect with the sellers and buyers and get your work done.
Helps To Develop A Sense Of Pride In Themselves And Their Culture
Having proper knowledge of your mother tongue is also a matter of pride. It shows how much you love your culture and also helps you build confidence in yourself. That is surely extremely needed in this rude and rough and tough world.
Such are the benefits of one’s mother tongue that it can help the children prosper in as many ways as possible. So, you decide for yourself, what is more important – educating your child in a foreign language or educating them in their mother tongue?
In this case we might also say that it was Lee Kuan Yew who brought along the multilingual policy in Singapore. Was it for the betterment? Was it for the worse? We all know the answer to it in our hearts.
Languages Of Singapore
Although the official language of Singapore is Malay, people across the country speak four different languages. These highly used languages are – English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil. English, as per many surveys conducted at various times, has become the most widely spoken language in Singapore. People below the age group of 50 and above prefer to communicate in English. As per the survey reports, they believe that English helps them to communicate better and to a larger group of people all around the world. It is also the medium of instructions in most of the schools in Singapore.
Singlish is another widely spoken unique language in Singapore. It is an innovative mixture of Singaporean and English which helps the people communicate better and also in an easier way. You can also call it the colloquial English, having a distinct Singaporean accent that almost goes past the basic standards of what we know to be English Grammar. While some people say that Singlish is basically the local slang, most people believe that a person talking in Singlish is a true localite.
It might sound astounding to many people but 9.2 percent of the Singaporeans are actually Indians from the southern part of India whose mother tongue was Tamil. In a survey done across the city-state, it has been found that almost 76.7 percent of these Indians spoke Tamil. As a result, Tamil was selected as one of the official languages of Singapore. The other Indian languages spoken in Singapore are Kannada, Telegu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Hindi, Malayalam and Gujarati. Surprising isn’t it? How people might forget everything else but can stick to their mother tongue in the farthest of places?
Introducing Your Children To Their Mother Tongue?
When at their tender age, it is easier to teach children the various things that they need to know to survive in the outside world. Here are a few ways in which you can introduce your infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers to mother tongue education.
- Sing songs, recite poems and read story books written in their mother tongue. This makes them comfortable with the language right from the beginning and help them understand it better as they grow up.
- Try to have a conversation with them even if they are cooing or gesturing. The more you talk to them, the faster they grab on things and the easier it becomes for them to understand what you or others are telling them when they grow up.
- Try to grow their interest in all your daily activities. Be it bathing, cooking, cleaning, washing or whatever it is, start to explain them what you are doing. This will pique their interests and you never know, they might also start enjoying it with you!
- Take the help of various books and outings to trigger their curiosity about the outer world. This also encourages them to learn new words, new things and new ways to communicate with you and everyone else coming to visit them. It not only widens their knowledge but also widens their view of the world.
- Allocate a specific time for them to converse in their mother tongue. It can be the lunch time, dinner time or even the breakfast time. The basic need is for all the members of the family to be together so that your toddler can learn many new things all at once.
- Make sure that your toddler learns at least two to three words everyday on an average basis. Make them repeat the words daily so that they can not only increase their vocabulary but also have a grasp over whatever they have learnt in the past days.
- Encourage your child to talk more to you. You can do this by asking questions, making comments, asking them to predict your unfinished words, or even by encouraging them to take part in active conversations.
- Give them new books to read with lots of new words for them to learn. With this, they can not only learn new things but also develop a very useful habit of reading at a very tender age.
- Expose your children to various cultural events. Getting them to know various interactive forms helps them to gather much more knowledge than they otherwise would. It can be during play dates, while attending birthday parties of other children, while watching educational videos others.
With the modern society gravitating towards using English as the most common language, the use of mother tongue is becoming obsolete day by day. But our birth language is surely extremely important and must not be neglected at any point. The first language that a baby learns plays a crucial role in his or her life for a wide array of reasons. It helps in intellectual development, a better connection with the culture, and also gives him or her many other commercial benefits.
Lee Kuan Yew believed that being monolingual will not lead the city-state to any prosperity. He believed in giving all languages an equal chance to flourish in Singapore. The results of his noble work can now be seen and felt worldwide. When a child reads out in their mother tongue since childhood, he or she would automatically have stronger literacy skills in other languages. Hence it is crucial for every child to be adequately trained in their mother tongue for them to have better chances of prosperity in future.