Forum: Not too onerous to expect new citizens to be proficient in English

I refer to Mr Foo Sing Kheng’s letter, “Proficiency in English does not make anyone more Singaporean” (March 2). I do not think it is out of line for Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh to call for an English proficiency test to be conducted for new citizen applicants.

While it is true that English proficiency does not make anyone more Singaporean, we cannot deny the fact that English, besides being Singapore’s working language, is also a common denominator of communication among fellow citizens of different races who happen to not speak English as their first language. 

For instance, when I go to hawker centres and markets, I often see older Malay and Indian stallholders trying their best to communicate with their Chinese customers in simple English. Likewise for the Chinese stallholders who try to communicate with their Malay or Indian customers.  

As communication is one of the most basic and important tenets of social integration, it is not too onerous to require new citizen applicants to be at least proficient in a language which seems to be the common denominator in our multiracial country. 

Mr Singh has rightly pointed out in his parliamentary speech that we want new citizens who truly know Singapore and want to embrace the Singapore way of life. To this end, the effort that one puts in to learn the host country’s working language is a good reflection of how much that person wants to embrace our way of life. 

Karen Yip Lai Kham

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