Singapore is a multi-racial country consisting of 4 ethnic groups namely Chinese, Malay, Indians and Eurasians. The Mother Tongue language in Singapore is a compulsory subject for all primary school students. There are 3 main MTL offered in Singapore and include Chinese Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil.
As students move from secondary to tertiary, they will have fewer opportunities to communicate in their mother tongue languages.
This is because students can be exempted from MTL in JC. Whereas for students that head to polytechnics or ITEs after their secondary education, the language of instruction is English, providing students with little to no chance of interacting in their mother tongue.
This article will provide you with lifestyle tips to keep staying in touch with your mother tongue.
Read also: Singapore School System: The Stages of Education
Why is the Mother Tongue language compulsory in Singapore?
The Bilingualism policy was introduced to encourage Singaporeans to be proficient in both English and their mother tongue languages.
The purpose of the policy is to allow students to:
– Communicate more effectively in MTL.
– Appreciate their cultural heritage.
– Connect with wider communities across Asia and the world.
– Enhance Singapore’s multi-racial identity and foster social cohesion in our daily lives.
MTL exemption in primary school
The exemption will only be granted if your child is
– Returning from overseas and having no opportunity to learn an official MTL, a Non-Tamil Indian Language (NTIL) or an approved Foreign Language or Asian Language for a sustained period of time.
– Have special educational needs, with severe difficulties in coping with overall learning.
Students are allowed to apply for MTL exemption before the first quarter of the year they sit for their national examinations, PSLE.
For more information about MTL exemption, visit the MOE official website here.
4 tips on staying in touch with your mother tongue language
1 – Incorporate mother tongue into your daily life
A percentage of families in Singapore would communicate daily in their second language, hence they are the ones unlikely to fall out of touch with their mother tongue.
Whereas for families that speak in English more than their second language, it could be good practice for you to switch it up sometimes. You can spend a few minutes to a few hours a day just communicating in your mother tongue language.
2 – Listen to music, podcasts or radio
Listening to music, podcasts or radio in your mother tongue can also help to strengthen your mother tongue language over time. This is because radios and podcasts tend to use the standard mother tongue which is useful to help you build your muscle memory and strengthen your language skills.
3 – Watch the TV with subtitles
One good way of keeping up with your language skills is to be able to recognise the words as you process them. Watching the news, dramas and movies can really help with language strengthening. TV shows such as the news and Singapore dramas would show subtitles as the show rolls.
This is a good way to build on your mother tongue skills while staying in touch with their mother tongue language.
4 – Online tuition & courses
For students who are still sitting for their MTL examinations in nationals, one good way to get extra practice would be to have additional practices with a tutor of your own.
Languages are one of the most tedious and challenging subjects to learn as they require a lot of practice in speaking, writing and listening. Hence, with a tutor’s help, students will have more chances of exposing themselves to using their second language more.
Whereas for those who no longer have to go to school, it is always good to keep learning every day. The history of our languages can be intriguing and interesting to many, hence you can never really ‘finish’ learning a language.
There are so many courses that educate you on the history of languages. These courses can not only help with enhancing your knowledge but keep you in touch with your second language.
In a nutshell
Singapore’s efforts to allow Singaporeans to be bilingual will go a long way for all of us. It will continue to help Singaporeans communicate effectively and proficiently with time. Hence, it is always good to keep on learning and exploring while growing up!
Tutopiya is a Live Online Tuition platform that offers Mother Tongue tuition to students aged 7 to 19. We offer online tuition for primary, secondary and junior college students. Chat with our experts to find out more!