Mother tongue: A tool to be used


Ng Kian Kok

Published: 4:02 AM, September 19, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, September 20, 2013

My answer to this week’s VoicesTODAY topic, Mother Tongue: Can the Decline be Stopped?, is yes, so long as there are opportunities for the language to be used in daily life.

A language is a tool, just like Apple OS, Windows and Linux. If one has no chance of applying it often, it will be forgotten and standards will drop.

A language should not only be learnt in the classroom but also incorporated into projects organised by schools that require students to communicate with the public, through spoken and written presentations.

This would test their performance, be it in Malay, Mandarin or Tamil, and they would know how proficient they are. It is up to the individual to define the importance of his or her mother tongue, a term which is in itself a restriction.

I am blessed to have had the chance to learn English and Mandarin. I have been approached by Chinese speakers and English speakers for help with simple translations when I have been abroad. To me, that is cool.

I have been travelling to Indonesia and am trying to pick up simple Bahasa Indonesia. It would have been great if I had been taught the language earlier. One should learn a language not to speak to one’s parents but to the world.