Lee Kuan Yew launches new book on bilingualism journey

SINGAPORE - A new book by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, titled "My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore's Bilingual Journey", is to be launched on Nov 28 at the Singapore Conference Hall.

The book recounts the story of Mr Lee's 50-year struggle to transform Singapore from a polyglot former British colony into a nation where everyone knows English and at least one other language.

The founding prime minister of Singapore reveals not only his motivations behind the many policy adjustments he made, such as doing away with vernacular schools, but also his own struggle to learn the Chinese language and reclaim his heritage.

The book consists of two parts. The second part features essays by Singaporeans on their individual linguistic journeys, and includes renowned names such as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, pop star Stefanie Sun, and American-born billionaire investor Jim Rogers, who chose to live in Singapore so that his daughters can receive a bilingual education.

The book comes in a 400-page Chinese edition and a 388-page English one, published by Lianhe Zaobao and The Straits Times Press respectively.

This was the decision of Mr Lee, who felt that two separate language editions instead of a translation of a single work would allow for variations which would speak to the two readerships better, said Mr Robin Hu, Senior Executive Vice-President of Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese Newspapers and Newspaper Services divisions and head of the editorial committee that worked closely with Mr Lee.

The book has received rave reviews from both foreign and local luminaries, with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger saying that the book offers "valuable insights for many countries struggling to absorb an unprecedented flood of new immigrants."

Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Company, said the book "comes at an important time for Singapore, which continues to rigorously examine its language policies as it sets a course for its next stage of development."

Each copy of the book comes with a DVD of extracts from relevant speeches made by Mr Lee - in English, Mandarin, Hokkien and Malay - over the past 50 years.

Both editions of the book will be available at leading bookstores at $39.90 per copy, inclusive of GST, from 5pm on the day of the launch. The book can also be purchased online from Straits Times Press Online Bookstore at www.stpressbooks.com.sg on the same day and time.