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Mandarin growing in importance as trade with China grows

Editor-at-Large Han Fook Kwang suggests it is possible that in future, Chinese may replace English as the main language in Singapore ("Will Chinese replace English as facts on the ground change?"; last Sunday).

While it is not certain that this will happen, it is undeniable that there will be a shift towards greater use of Mandarin here, as Chinese investment and trade with Singapore and the region grow.

In Hong Kong, many banks and law firms require job candidates to be able to conduct business negotiations in Mandarin and read financial documents in Chinese.

This is due to the billions of dollars of deals that take place in Hong Kong involving Chinese companies.

Last year, US$25 billion (S$34 billion) was raised from initial public offerings in Hong Kong, causing the city to overtake New York as the world's biggest IPO market.

I know of an American lawyer who was rejected by many law firms in Hong Kong when he tried to get a job in the city, as he was not proficient in Mandarin.

As Chinese trade and investment in Singapore grow, Singaporeans will have to compete for high-flying jobs with Chinese citizens.

A growing number of Chinese citizens are fluent in English, while retaining their skill in Mandarin. This is the kind of competition Singaporeans will be up against.

Toh Han Shih

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Mandarin growing in importance as trade with China grows'. Print Edition | Subscribe