File photo : © ThinkTamil Academy.
I was pouring through the local newspaper, Today Online, when I chanced upon this article that struck a rather familiar chord in me. The article spoke about the English language presiding dominance in most Malay households, where parents have quoted about conversing in English to their children because they are “much more comfortable with the language”.
The article further proceeds to draw a parallel between Malay families who choose English as their common language at home, versus Malay families who strive to speak in their own mother tongue at home. Some parents opt to leave Malay language education with their child’s school teachers whereas some make a conscious effort to balance both evenly at home, borrowing Malay books from the library and conversing in Malay.
As aforementioned, the issues of bilingualism isn’t just present in our Malay community, but even the Chinese and Indian community as well. During the ‘Speak Mandarin Campaign’ launched on October 22nd this year, Prime Minister Lee addressed the concerns about our society’s efforts in being a bilingual one.
“Today, most young Chinese Singaporeans can understand and speak Mandarin, although not always fluently. We need to acknowledge that we are losing our bilingual competitive advantage,” quoted Mr Lee.
Mr Lee further quoted the statistics of English speaking communities on the rise. Two decades ago, Indian families with English as their dominant language was fifty-five percent. Today, it has risen to seventy-percent.
There could be many internal and external factors that affect a child’s bilingual ability to read, write, speak and understand. The high number of working parents could possibly mean less interactive time with children, hence not being able to make time to expose children to their mother tongue. We have spoken about starting from young, which is why choosing a good foundation for children matters a lot - the environment they start off from plays a frugal role in their bilingual ability.
“Children these days are quick to adapt and extremely intelligent. We could teach them a letter on day one and by day five, they are already writing it but our biggest challenge here is to get them to speak in their mother tongues.” says Mrs Yogeswari Preshant, founder of ThinkTamil Academy, a bilingual enrichment program that encourages Tamil through stories. Mrs Yogeswari is also currently in the process of setting up Thinkkidz, a Tamil immersion childcare - a first of its kind in Singapore.
“When we say immersion, it means that children are exposed to this language from a very tender age where they absorb like sponges. The more exposure, the more we are certain that our culture and heritage through the love of Tamil is preserved. With Thinkkidz being the first Tamil immersion childcare, we aim just that.” she continues.
With Mrs Preshant’s vivid goals in mind, we hope that our society continues to groom our future leaders to be bilingual, and that we remain citizens who are constantly in touch with our very own roots and heritage. Thinkkidz is definitely a first of the many that will be projected, and we wish the team our very best in this positive endeavour.