Singapore

Singapore doing its ‘utmost’ to keep mother tongue languages alive: PM Lee

Singapore doing its ‘utmost’ to keep mother tongue languages alive: PM Lee
TODAY file photo
We should accept that live languages will evolve and change over time, says the Prime Minister
Published: 8:21 PM, May 4, 2014

SINGAPORE – The Republic is doing its “utmost” to keep mother tongue languages alive, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (May 4) as he noted that such live languages will “evolve and change over time”.

“We need to speak and write them correctly, but also colloquially,” said Mr Lee in a Facebook post.

Mr Lee said that he had come across an interesting piece about how the Chinese language is changing in China.

The BBC article that Mr Lee was referring to described how people are using English words in spoken and written Chinese directly, without translating them into Chinese equivalents, or transliterating them into similar sounding Chinese characters.

“This is causing controversy in China. Some think it is the practical thing to do – everybody knows what Wifi is, so why invent some unfamiliar Chinese term for the same thing? But others feel that the pure Chinese language is being polluted with foreign words,” Mr Lee wrote.

Noting that “the same thing is happening to other languages too” – such as Malay spoken in Malaysia and Tamil spoken in India – Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to accept that live languages will evolve and change over time.

He said: “The reality is that a language is a live, changing thing. It constantly absorbs words, concepts and usages from foreign languages, so long as people are using it in their daily lives.”