Should Singaporeans show more interest in our dialects?

By June 5, 2018Local Life

TL;DR – Is dialect even useful? 

Image via ST File photo

I would think that growing up in a Cantonese-speaking family has brought me some benefits in life. I am able to watch (and understand) Hong Kong movies and business negotiation becomes a lot easier when speaking to my counterparts in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong or Shen Zhen and even some of the older businessmen in Singapore who prefer to converse in dialect. I mean some of them can speak Mandarin of course but speaking the same dialect just brings people closer, I gues.

That being said, I had a tough time in school as a kid. I knew almost zero English or Chinese when I entered primary school, and not only was it tough for me to handle my school work, I also faced problems communicating with my teachers and classmates. Well, I eventually managed to pick up both languages over the years. Not the best in proficiency, but fluent enough I guess.

Over the years along with Singapore’s progress, more youngsters have lost the ability or even interest when it comes to their dialects, especially with increasing emphasis on academics. Pop culture plays a part as well. Youths these days would rather learn Korean, Japanese and even Thai instead of their dialects. There is no right or wrong when it comes to pursing your interests but should we as a nation revive our dying dialects?

Since the 1970s, Singapore has also stopped producing or airing any shows in dialects on the local television, mainly to get people to speak Mandarin. I believe it was the right move at that time but what about now?

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I mean, we see recent Mediacorp TV programs featuring dialects, such as “Eat Already” as well as “Happy Can Already” by Jack Neo which is a collaboration with Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) but sadly, it seems like they were produced for the senior citizens instead of youths.

I’m not saying that Singapore should start teaching dialect in school but shouldn’t we as individuals show more interest in our mother tongue? Perhaps our local cinemas and Channel 8 can help to give a push too by airing Hong Kong or Taiwan shows in their original dialogues instead of dubbing them with Mandarin?

On a personal basis, would you want your children to pick up dialect/s? How then do we ensure that they still speak good English and Mandarin?

(Cover image via)


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Smith Leong

Author Smith Leong

Social Media Trainer @ NTUC | Youth Mentor | Labour Champion | Photographer | Content Creator |

More posts by Smith Leong

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Alex says:

    I honestly think that schools should start teaching the different dialects without it being weighted as this way students can learn their dialects without feeling pressured and it’s more of a fun thing. Learning their dialects may also help to improve their mt as it arouse interest. This is cmg frm a secondary sch student. I do think dialect are very important.

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