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PM Lee: Singapore doing its best to keep mother tongue languages alive

Published on May 4, 2014 11:46 AM
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks at Chong Boon Secondary School 20th Anniversary Celebration at Chong Boon School, on April 10, 2014. Singapore doing its best to keep mother tongue languages alive, Mr Lee wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday. -- ST FILE PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Language is a live, changing thing which constantly absorbs words, concepts and usages from foreign languages, so long as people use it in their daily lives. Otherwise it becomes a dead language, studied by scholars but not spoken by ordinary people anymore, like Latin or Sanskrit.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote this on his Facebook page on Sunday morning and referred to an article in the BBC. The article discusses how the Chinese language is changing in China with people using English words in spoken and written Chinese directly, without translating them into Chinese equivalents, or even transliterating them into similar sounding Chinese characters.

This practice, he wrote, is causing controversy in China. Some think it is the practical thing to do, while others feel that the Chinese language is being polluted with foreign words.


The same thing, he noted, is happening to other languages too. If you listen to Malay spoken in Malaysia, or Tamil in India, you will often hear English words mixed in, he wrote.

"We pay a lot of attention to languages in Singapore. We are doing our utmost to keep our mother tongues alive. These are live languages to be used, so we should accept that they will evolve and change over time. We need to speak and write them correctly, but also colloquially. Then we will really be cool..." wrote PM Lee.