National Institute of Education and National Library Board Launches "Diverse Languages, One Identity: A Guide To Conversations In The Chinese, Malay And Tamil Languages" to Promote the Learning and Speaking of Mother Tongues in Singapore

Release Date : 20 Apr 2010

Singapore, 20 April 2010 - "Diverse Languages, One Identity: A Guide To Conversations In The Chinese, Malay And Tamil Languages" is co-published by the National Institute of Education (NIE) and the National Library Board (NLB) and this guide was launched today at the National Library Building.

Consisting of a booklet and a compact disc of audio recordings for one to learn the spoken Chinese, Malay and Tamil languages through English, this guide was created by the student teachers and Language Advisors of the four languages from NIE. This booklet is one of the Asian Languages and Cultures Academic Group's "3+1" initiatives to develop and foster collaboration and cooperation among the three major ethnic groups in Singapore.

This booklet aims to raise inter-ethnic linguistic awareness and develop cross-cultural understanding among the three ethnic communities in Singapore. In this publication, English is the main language used, followed by the mother tongue languages based on the demographic proportion in Singapore, i.e. Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Covering eight main topics and a number of scenarios to reflect the campus life experiences of a tertiary student, English phrases are transliterated in Chinese, Malay and Tamil to serve as a preliminary guide to understand the different mother tongues. This is also seen as an effective pedagogical platform to promote the ethnic integration of student teachers, teachers and curriculum developers. In addition, this booklet will be an important teaching and learning resource material for the Subject Heads and Heads of Departments of Mother Tongue Languages in their courses at the National Institute of Education.

- In this booklet, English is used as the common language for understanding the content. All dialogues are first written in English and are subsequently translated into the three respective mother tongues.

  • For Mandarin, the content has been presented in the spoken language through hanyu pinyin, the official Romanised phonetic system for Standard Mandarin, instead of using Chinese characters, which is logographic in nature and difficult for beginners to read.
  • This early exposure of hanyu pinyin, will provide an earlya head-start and a learning tool for mastering the Chinese characters later.
  • For Malay, this multimedia package uses standard spoken Malay or Sebutan Baku. It is also the standard variant used in Singapore and the Malay-speaking countries Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Southern Thailand.
  • As Tamil is a diglossic language with marked differences in its written and spoken form, the booklet content for Tamil is reflected in the spoken Tamil variety and it will provide a platform for learning the written Tamil form in the next stage of learning the language.

This booklet, which is a joint project between NIE and NLB, demonstrates the close relationship between the two major institutions of teaching and learning and creating life-long readers in Singapore. The Asian Languages and Cultures Academic Group's faculty believes that an initiative like this will help student teachers have a greater understanding of the other cultures in Singapore. This booklet can also be seen to be of national interest in promoting multicultural understanding among the citizens, students and newcomers to our country.

"NLB is pleased to join NIE in this meaningful initiative. We believe that learning the different mother tongues can enhance mutual understanding and appreciation between the ethnic groups and hence, promote better inter-ethnic cohesion. The book and CD will also be useful for tourists", said Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive of National Library Board.

"This 3+1 Conversational Mother Tongue package - in Chinese (Mandarin), Malay and Tamil, with English as the common language, is an innovative effort which serves as a good platform to build understanding and respect among the various races in Singapore, and will help student teachers of different ethnic groups develop a deeper understanding of one another", said Professor Lee Sing Kong, Director of National Institute of Education, Singapore.

"We believe that the NIE is an excellent community to begin the raising of an inter-ethnic linguistic awareness. By equipping educators and educators-to-be with the basic conversational competencies in the three mother tongues, it is hoped that they will in turn motivate their students in the schools to learn the languages", said Associate Professor Goh Yeng Seng, Head of Asian Languages & Cultures Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Singapore.

With 75 pages and an audio accompaniment on the pronunciations, this booklet will be a useful tool for tertiary institutions, schools, Singaporeans and even tourists visiting Singapore.

This booklet is available for sale at $10.70 (with GST) at the following locations:

Govt & Business Information Services (GBIS)

National Library Board

Tel: 6333 7977

Fax: 6333 7990


Asian Languages & Cultures

National Institute of Education, Singapore

Tel: 6790 3518

Fax: 6896 9033 (attention to: Ms Janice Seow)