Learning Chinese as a Mother Tongue Can be Awkward for Many Singaporeans

By  //  March 11, 2023

For many Singaporeans of Chinese descent, learning Chinese as a mother tongue subject in school occupies an awkward position.

With many different races in Singapore, English has asserted its dominance as a common ground language to facilitate communication.

On a societal level, English easily takes the spotlight as a language and medium, especially among younger-generation Singaporeans. While the perception of using and learning Chinese for the future may be shaped by individual experiences in the family, society, and with school peers, it all boils down to the contentious subject of HOW mother tongue subjects are taught at school. Often, for parents to overcome this problem, they turn to Chinese tuition in Singapore for their children. 

Unrealistic teaching methods in school

Many Singaporeans – mostly at the primary and secondary level – find learning Chinese as a mother tongue contentious, at best. Unlike English lessons, Chinese lessons are very contrived and inorganic, focusing more on memorization than structural usage. Many issues with teaching methods were mostly negative, such as unrealistic fictional scenarios, less creativity, less fun, and less engaging.

Many students complained about the incessant memorization of weird and stilted Mandarin passages. There is hardly any back-and-forth discussion of ideas on usage. Others point out that teachers don’t take into consideration that many students have a poor foundation in their own mother tongue since most families in Singapore now speak English at home. Even those who grew up around Mandarin-speaking families still find it hard to hold basic conversations in that language.

Further fuelling the dislike of mother tongue language classes is the inability of teachers to adjust to their students accordingly. Along this line, futile government efforts to encourage Singaporeans to learn and speak more in Mandarin are met – at the least – with skepticism.

The effort to get Mandarin widely used

Although Singapore is a uniquely diverse country, its dominant culture group is Singaporeans of Chinese descent (70%). But, government efforts to encourage Singaporeans (especially the younger generation) to learn and speak Mandarin have a cultural problem. Aside from Mandarin, many Singaporeans also speak other forms of Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, Hainanese, and Hokkien.

Wide use will boost tourism

While it is true that Mandarin is spoken by over a billion people worldwide, many younger Singaporeans find almost no use in the language other than in conversations. After all, they argue, the common medium in education, business, and commerce in the country and worldwide is still English. Another encouragement by the government is that a large portion of Singapore’s tourism includes Chinese tourists.

Singaporeans who know how to speak Mandarin can enhance the travel experiences of these tourists. However, many Singaporeans argue that many of these tourists already know rudimentary English, and can communicate on a basic level. 

Heritage preservation

This is probably the strongest argument the government can push, with the help of the older generations. Though the newer generations of Singaporeans have developed their own unique “Singlish” dialect, they need to understand that aside from the Malays, the country’s history was greatly influenced by the efforts of thousands of Chinese-Singaporeans. This language and cultural heritage must be preserved for future generations to understand and appreciate their historical foundation and beginnings.

Learning Chinese with a home or online tutor

Regardless of everything, the benefits of learning a mother tongue far outweigh the inadequacies of how it is taught in school at any level.

Besides, Singaporeans of other descents also need to take their mother tongue language subject in Tamil or Malay. So, to overcome any shortcomings in the education system, parents are turning to Chinese home or online tutors, such as FamilyTutor.

Getting Chinese tutors at FamilyTutor means getting focused one-to-one lessons wherein tutors can answer questions from your child in both English and Chinese. Your children can learn faster at their own pace since everything is clarified and explained in both languages. Weaker Chinese students will find the language to be more interesting or at least bearable.

Hiring private home or online Chinese tuition from FamilyTutor means lessons are more interactive, personalised, and focused on finding and correcting the child’s weaknesses while harnessing his/her strengths.

 Having the most family-oriented home and online tutors, zero agency or hidden fees, and the highest level of satisfaction from media and online reviews, FamilyTutor can improve your child’s learning and outlook on learning Chinese for the future.