Grace Fu: Knowing Mandarin key to appreciating Chinese culture

"Adventures in a living room" performed by Mr Jason Lim, Mdm Yeo Hwee Kheng and Lim Ze Hang.ST VIDEO: SEAN LIM
The Theatre Practice performing a medley of nursery rhymes at the launch of this year's Speak Mandarin Campaign yesterday. The campaign, in its 38th year, taps the use of stories by encouraging Singaporeans to share their own stories and experiences
The Theatre Practice performing a medley of nursery rhymes at the launch of this year's Speak Mandarin Campaign yesterday. The campaign, in its 38th year, taps the use of stories by encouraging Singaporeans to share their own stories and experiences in Mandarin.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

At Speak Mandarin Campaign launch, she urges Singaporeans to start building foundation of the language from a young age

Only those with a good grasp of Mandarin would understand the idiom behind an image of a young boy standing next to a lotus flower.

So, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu challenged her audience, quizzing them on its meaning at the launch of this year's Speak Mandarin Campaign.

They were up to it, shouting out "Lian Sheng Gui Zi" (the birth of one honourable son after another).

The spirited response was met with laughter, but the lighthearted repartee emphasised Ms Fu's point about how knowing Mandarin is key to understanding and appreciating Chinese culture.

Speaking in Mandarin, she said: "By learning the Chinese language, we can better understand our local Chinese history and have a greater sense of national identity."

Ms Fu, who is the MP for Yuhua, spoke to an audience of about 350 at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, near Shenton Way, yesterday.

She urged Singaporeans to "start building the foundation of Mandarin from a young age, given how the language has become international".

The Speak Mandarin Campaign, in its 38th year, taps the use of stories by encouraging Singaporeans to share their own stories and experiences in Mandarin.

Singaporeans should use opportunities to converse in Mandarin, as the campaign tagline launched in 2014 puts it: "Mandarin gets better with use."

Promote Mandarin Council chairman Seow Choke Meng said the use of Mandarin remains highly relevant, and the campaign believes in promoting immersive environments to enrich the language user's experience.

Immersing children in the language helps them master it, agreed Mrs Jas Poh, whose son Zac, in Primary 4, was on stage as a finalist in a public speaking showcase.

The 40-year-old housewife said Zac seldom speaks Mandarin at home.

She said: "In the process of preparing for story-telling, children will be encouraged to find out the meaning of new words that can be used in the story."

For the first time, My Story, a public speaking competition, will be held for teens aged between 13 and 18, for them to share their own stories. A top prize of $1,500 in cash, and second and third consolation prizes will be awarded.

Such initiatives were welcomed by 13-year-old Chen Yi Xian, a Secondary 1 River Valley High School student, who said competitions are a fun way to gain exposure to speaking Mandarin.

The year-long campaign will also see the continuation of the Parent-Child Talent Competition - first launched in 2013 - for parents and children to create their own stories based on childhood memories.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'Grace Fu: Knowing Mandarin key to appreciating Chinese culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe