Confucius Institute launches book that examines writing styles in Singapore and China

SINGAPORE - When using the Chinese language, Singaporeans tend to add a dash of English expressions or a hint of dialect in their correspondence with Chinese businessmen or officials and this can make their writing hard to understand.

To tackle such challenges and more, a book on applied writing in Chinese that compares writing styles in Singapore and China was launched on Thursday (March 21) at the National Library in Bugis.

The book's author is Associate Professor Kou Hong, a former visiting scholar at the National Institute of Education and the Confucius Institute at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

She told The Straits Times that the biggest differences in the writing and communication styles of the two countries are seen in the sentence structure and vocabulary.

"For Singapore, there is a mix of (translated) English expressions as well as influence from some dialects," she said in Mandarin after the book's launch.

Prof Kou is currently a faculty member at the Shandong Police College in China, teaching applied writing to civil servants.

The book covers various categories of writing, including official letters, speeches, press releases, notices and agreements.

It serves as a guide for Singaporean government officials, professionals and businessmen who have to communicate formally with their Chinese counterparts, said the Confucius Institute, which published the book.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat, who attended the event, said that the book can serve as a useful resource for Singaporeans who want to deepen their capabilities in the Chinese language.

It costs $20 and can be purchased from the Confucius Institute or selected bookstores, including Union Book Co and Maha Yu Yi at Bras Basah.

Speaking to reporters after the launch, Mr Chee said: "Language is closely tied to culture, values and even the way we think." While English is more commonly used here, young people should find opportunities to use their mother tongue languages, he added.

"It will make us a more diverse and resilient society, and also help us to better plug into our region."

He had earlier stressed at a dialogue session during the book launch that the younger generation should be encouraged to use more Chinese in their daily lives.

"We must encourage the younger generation not to treat Chinese as just another examinable subject... In our daily lives, we must encourage them to speak more," Mr Chee said.