THE number of English speaking families is increasing rapidly.
As children from these families face pressure in and frustration with learning Chinese, there have been appeals to lower the standard of Chinese language learning or to make Chinese a non-critical subject.
Students have described Chinese lessons as boring affairs. Others said that they hate every minute of it.
They have little exposure to the language and hence underperform.
The Chinese-language "B" Syllabus for weaker students was introduced in the late 1990s.
I came across a Korean boy without any background in basic Chinese, who attained a near-perfect score in a Chinese examination after only 10 months of learning the language.
He came to Singapore and enrolled as a Primary 1 pupil. Chinese was a new language to him.
He realised that he had to overcome this hurdle and made an extra effort to master the language, with the aid of a Korean- Chinese electronic dictionary. His hard work, together with his good attitude towards learning the language, earned him good results in the year-end examination.
China is emerging as a global superpower. A knowledge of Chinese and the ability to converse fluently in Mandarin will pave the way to more business opportunities.
In view of this, more Americans and foreigners have been showing a keen interest in learning the language so as to deal with their Chinese counterparts more efficiently.
As more of China's elite are learning English and other languages, Singapore will lose its bilingual edge in a matter of time.
Attitude plays a vital role in every learning process. Lowering standards is not the answer and taking shortcuts to master a language is also not the right thing to do.
Building a solid foundation is vital when it comes to language learning.
Without this foundation, students are likely to continue being plagued with difficulties as they progress to higher levels of Chinese-language learning.
MS CHUA CHERN NEE
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