SINGAPORE - There were no Monday blues for St Margaret's Secondary School students, who were serenaded by local crooner Nathan Hartono in a surprise assembly performance on Monday (Jan 9).
There in his new capacity as the ambassador for the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning's (CPCLL) new campaign, Hartono admitted his mastery of the language was poor before he appeared on TV competition Sing! China last year.
"Terrible," the Nanyang Primary School and Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) graduate said of his level of mastery.
"I found Chinese difficult and meaningless and was not interested in learning it," he recalled.
Speaking in both Mandarin and English, he said since his participation in Sing! China, he has found himself attracted to the language and was determined to master it.
"I discovered that learning a new language is not just for grades... Learning a new language opens up a whole new world.
"You just have to be brave about trying to speak (in Mandarin)... and develop that muscle memory."
The campaign, Ai Shang Hua Wen - which loosely translates to Fall In Love With Chinese - will see Hartono embark on a series of school visits to share his experiences.
Ms Low Yen Ling, chairman of the CPCLL committee and Parliamentary Secretary for Education, unveiled a new logo, and said Hartono was an ideal ambassador.
"He epitomises how young Singaporeans can embrace the Chinese language and culture."
She also added how the rebranding of the campaign, with the new logo and slogan, as well as "a very passionate, dedicated new ambassador", makes the learning of Chinese "more interesting, more lively and more relatable".
Tanita Giri, a Secondary 4 student of the school who is half Chinese and half Indian, said that Hartono's story has inspired her.
"He is very courageous. To start learning Chinese songs from scratch is not an easy thing," said the 15-year-old, who doesn't speak Mandarin at home, though she does watch television dramas in that language with her mum.
"But he's a good role model. He shows us that Chinese is not difficult to learn."