Sunday, April 01, 2012

Lim Swee Say urges students to take greater interest in Chinese

SINGAPORE: Having a good command of Chinese is increasingly important in an environment where the use of Chinese becomes more pervasive.

Speaking to students at a forum, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Lim Swee Say urged them to take a greater interest in Chinese.

The future of the world may not necessarily be China-centric, but Mr Lim said China will be a part of the future, adding that China's growing influence should not be ignored.

Fielding questions in English and Mandarin, Mr Lim dished out practical advice on how to work with the Chinese.

Mr Lim said: "Try not to impress the Chinese that you can be as Chinese, or even more Chinese than them. There are 1.3 billion China Chinese, so they don't need another one more. For example, I've seen some Singaporeans going to China try to impress the Chinese when they're using their language, their knowledge about China and so on. Yes, the Chinese will be very impressed but what's next? The reason why they want to engage us is not because they're impressed by our language or our knowledge of them. But rather, what they're looking to us is to bring something that they do not know.

"In other words, my own philosophy is that when I'm in China, I try to let them see the difference between us. I want them to know that I look at things differently. I look at the way how technology is being used, the way business is being run and so on differently. I look at the way we run Singapore society, community which is different from China. But yet at the same time, I must be able to speak enough of their language so that I can explain to them in what way we're different, why we're different and more importantly, why we can learn from each other and leverage on each other. In other words, being bilingual, in my view, is very important.

"If I am monolingual and expert only in Mandarin, I think I would be limited use to the Chinese because as I said, there are 1.3 billion of them. They do not need one more."

Students asked a variety of questions, from China's impending leadership renewal, its rise in economic power, and what Singapore can offer as a small country.

One student asked if China and the West can establish a bridge itself, what advantage does Singapore has.

Mr Lim said the role of bilingual and bicultural Singaporeans goes beyond being a bridge.

He said: "We're not trying to position ourselves as an effective interpreter. This is not our role. Our role is to be part of the process of creating something together. Language understanding in my view is just a basic necessity.

"The reason why the West is running fast to learn Mandarin is because they feel that without the language as a tool, they're at a big disadvantageous position. So they're trying to minimise their disadvantages. The East are learning fast to learn English because there're many things that they want to reach out to the West. They're not able to do so because language is a barrier. That's why they're learning the languages."

But Mr Lim added that it will take more than just language or culture for both societies to come together.

During the forum, Mr Lim said explained that Singapore takes an eclectic approach to ensure it remains successful in the global community.
He said: "We learn from the best from the West and the East and we put them together in what we call the eclectic approach. It means you pick the best features of the world, put them together and adapt to it.

"We must always make sure that Singapore will be successful. One reason today why Singaporeans have this high standing in the global community is because of our success in Singapore. Therefore, let us on one hand ensure that Singapore will always be successful and at the same time, making sure that we keep learning the best from the West and the East and make it something uniquely Singapore. That 'uniquely Singapore' is really our biggest strength.

"Fifty years from now, it doesn't matter whether the West can speak better Mandarin, or the East can speak better English. We'll always have a role to play, in terms of helping to provide a bridge or more than a bridge."

This is the largest forum since Business China launched the China-Quotient Student forum in 2010.

Business China said this is a reflection of the growing interest in China among youths.

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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