There was something Singapore's former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (inset) said that should be good food for thought. He had said in a mix of Chinese and English during a dialogue at the World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention that if young Singaporeans were to give up the Chinese language, then they would have lost something valuable. Probably, he has been concerned about the declining proficiency of the younger set of Singaporean Chinese. The younger set of Chinese in neighbouring Malaysia however are rather different. Most, having had been to Chinese primary school could speak Mandarin and from there on, could switch on to other Chinese dialects easily, especially Cantonese which they probably would have picked up too from Hong Kong television series. Many learn to speak dialects like Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka from the older generations, their parents or grandparents especially while others pick up the Malay language from schools or their Malay friends and the smarter one would even pick up English later on in their working life. In Singapore, there used to be a campaign called 华语 Cool! (Huayu Cool!) to attract the young Singaporeans Chinese to learn and speak Mandarin. Probably, they should have one to encourage the older set of Singaporeans to speak Mandarin to their children too.


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