Language connects us to culture

The new initiative to promote the learning of mother tongue languages reminds me of my own experience (New video series to promote mother tongue languages; ST Online, Jan 4).

I grew up speaking Mandarin, but I soon become much more comfortable with English, as I spoke it more often in school.

When I went on an overseas immersion programme to China, I was suddenly required to speak much more Mandarin.

I soon realised that my Mandarin was not up to standard. My expressions were sometimes rather odd, and I often struggled to translate certain words.

The experience made me more interested and determined to improve.

What does it mean to be truly bilingual? One would need to not only be proficient in both languages, but also have a deeper understanding of the language, the culture it belongs to and the people who speak it.

It is this knowledge and sensitivity that will allow us to communicate on a deeper level, be it with those around us or communities beyond Singapore. Furthermore, our mother tongue and cultural heritage are part of our identity, and it is our responsibility to stay connected to them.

I sincerely hope more people realise what their mother tongues can offer and that more Singaporeans will be able to better connect with the rest of the world.

Rebecca Yang Xinze, 16

Junior College 1 student

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Language connects us to culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe