Should We Expose Children To Multiple Languages?

I feel that there is nothing wrong in being the master of just one language; and that while there *are* advantages in being "multi-lingual", IF one is master of none, then there are also disadvantages too.

Increasingly I find that in work, people who have a weak grasp of English, who cannot write to save their lives, hamper productivity and creativity. How can a person innovate if he can’t express in complex/abstract/poetic/metaphysical terms what he’s trying to invent? I have realized with increasing worry that project documents are often being dumbed down to the point of irrelevance because people don’t know how to articulate complex ideas.

Have you ever watched two people with poor English argue a complex issue in English? (eg. it could be a Malay with a Chinese). You will get what I mean.

Coming back to parenthood, have you ever torn your hair in frustration trying to answer an innocent question from your child which involves complex reasoning/words? You will see then how important it is to be able to understand the words of someone who is linguistically more capable.

So anyway, it may be great for international business and this trendy thing called "globalization", but I feel that while many expound on the merits of being multi-lingual, they forget that they are master of no language. This means everything they say is half-baked. The fact is: many Singaporeans may be "multi-lingual" but they are certainly NOT multi/LINGUISTS. A truly bilingual person would be one who has mastered two languages, for example.

Face the fact: in Singapore, PRCs laugh at our Chinese, while Americans laugh at our English. What does this tell you?

I make no excuses for the fact that my Mandarin is weak (which I regret a little) – for my English is excellent. Employers continue to underrate this, even as standards of English in Singapore continue to degenerate. And yet, I am always the target of pleas for help in vetting documents, cleaning up language, improving resumes, articulating design ideas, etc. My Mandarin has improved with exposure, I also speak decent Hokkien, and I’m learning Japanese. I’m master of none of these languages, but I have at least mastered English.

My point – if you ask me for my recommendation, it would be that, go ahead and let your child speak/learn as many languages as he wishes, but please ensure she is at least master of one. Smile

Imo, it is better be

Imo, it is better be multilingual, even if you are master of none. 

The problem with many Sporeans is Singlish. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the schools here do not focus on building the foundation first (grammar in this instance). They are pushing P1 students to do composition writing, whilst many still can’t string a proper grammatical sentence to gether. When I listen to teenagers talking nowadays, I’ve noticed that they do have a large vocab but the grammar ………………. aargh!

I do think children are

I do think children are able to master two languages (English and Chinese).  As long as they are expose to the right environment. It could be three languages if they are staying with their grandparents who speak in dialect. Main thing is for the children to practise.

Master of both languages

I think kids now should at least master two languages, English and Chinese.  This is a very essential skill they need if they want to excel in their careers.  As a parent I emphasis both languages. 

master minimum 2: mother

master minimum 2: mother tongue and english.

i agree

i believe most people can only master one language. hence i don’t agree to singapore’s bi-lingual education system. the outcome is already there: both prc and american laugh at us.


Bravo, bro! You laid it out well… and as usual

in the authentic sashimi flavour! KUDOS!

Hope none of our kiddies wud say they’re

a master of singlish.. Ahakz!


Cannot agree more...

I so agree.  If no languages are mastered, where is the basis for learning another foreign language?  Vanity and unrealistic expectation will drive people to make weird choices.

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