SINGAPORE - The school hall of New Town Secondary School buzzed with excitement on Thursday (Jan 4) morning as Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng and local singer-songwriters Olivia Ong, Shabir Alam and Taufik Batisah made an appearance to share their stories on learning mother tongue languages.
At the session, students also watched videos featuring Mr Ng and each of the personalities. The series of short videos was launched by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism to highlight the importance of mother tongue languages in bringing people closer together and can also be viewed online. A fifth video depicted a short story of bridging the gap between a young girl and her grandfather.
Said Mr Ng, who is also chairman of the fund: "Bilingualism forms an important part of our national identity. Proficiency in our mother tongue will enable all of us to communicate effectively in a variety of settings, to understand our cultural heritage and to connect with communities across Asia and the world which speak that same language or share the same culture."
Those who speak Malay could potentially be able to reach out to 300 million speakers in the region; those who speak Tamil or another Indian language could potentially reach out to 1.3 billion people; those who speak Mandarin could potentially reach out to 1.4 billion people, he said.
The fund supported 23 proposals for bilingual projects in 2017.
At the event, the three local singer-songwriters performed their hit songs and also engaged in an interactive activity with student volunteers during which they quizzed the students in their respective mother tongues.
New Town Secondary School Secondary 4 student Nur Adilah Mohd Haron, 16, said she identified with the stories shared by the artists, citing Taufik Batisah's example of his initial struggles with penning Malay lyrics: "I can relate as I speak a lot of English."
She said she was encouraged to keep connected to her mother tongue through listening to more Malay songs.