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Saturday, November 27, 2010

English or Chinese? Which is more important?


English and Chinese, which is more important? This is actually a very stupid question. It is like: Daddy and mommy, who is more important?

But such a question could bring out an altogether different significance if we look at it from a different angle.

For example, is the father's status getting more and more important, or the mother's role getting smaller now?

Take away the component of absurdity, this has now become a sociological issue that can be interpreted and contended from the aspects of changes in the society, familial structures and relationships as well as the bigger picture of globalisation and connectivity.

In a similar manner, people should also ask: Is Chinese getting more important or less important now?

Sure enough such questions are pretty redundant, as Chinese craze has taken over the world in a big way, with Mandarin classes set up in schools across Europe, America and other Western countries.

In Malaysia, only the Chinese community was concerned about this language in the past, while our government remained largely apathetic.

In recent years, however, we have seen some fundamental changes taking place. The government's attitude has somewhat softened: building more Chinese schools, giving allowances to independent secondary schools, and starting to show some concerns about the long neglected national-type secondary schools.

A more surprising development has been the recent announcement by the government to start teaching Mandarin in thousands of government-sponsored kindergartens across the country.

So, we don't need Khoo Kay Kim to tell us whether Chinese is an important language. The old man seems to have a passion for all things past and is not able to see the future clearly.

That said, there is no need for us to get carried away by the euphoria and turn ourselves into fierce Mandarin chauvinists.

Mom is getting important, but that does not mean dad's status is redundant.

Trendologists will tell us English is in no way declining in importance.

Under globalisation, world economy is operating as a chain. With multinational corporations scattered all across the world, interpersonal communication still needs to be bridged by a more universal language, which is English.

And in the virtual world, English with its unparalleled cultural and technological advantages will still traverse geographical boundaries to become the principal language of information dissemination.

It is even said that the opening up of China has created an enormous market for the English language.

While the British Empire has long faded into obscurity, its language has become more dominant now than ever.

We can embrace the future only if we are able to command both the Chinese and English languages.

Sin Chew Daily

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