Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wrong headlines to the wrong readers – The dilemma of Chinese language in Singapore

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew launched his Chinese version of Hard Truths last week. But the headlines of Chinese and English medium are quite different and it serves no benefit to both medium readers by not giving the true picture of Lee’s speech.
Simply put it. Both medium are giving the wrong headlines to the wrong readers. There is no impact and it will not stimulate the learning of Chinese language in Singapore.
Zaobao gives a strong message to Chinese readers who already have the knowledge of Chinese language. Why sells something to a buyer who already has the product and know the importance of owning it?

Lee Kuan Yew: Future regrets if you don’t understand Chinese
李光耀: 不谙华语将来后悔莫及

Regret or no regret depending on who you are
Let see the headlines of the English medium to make a comparison:

Bilingualism crucial for future generations: Mr Lee (Asiaone, 17 Sept)

Bilingualism is possible in Singapore, says Lee Kuan Yew (CNA 16 Sept)

Lee Kuan Yew launches Chinese edition of Hard Truths, turns 88 (ST 17 Sept)

Bilingualism is possible, says Lee Kuan Yew
(Today, 17 Sept)

If you are an English reader, after reading the above headlines, will you be moved to learn the Chinese language? The Asiaone headline may provide the financial incentive to learn Chinese but what is the real reason for wanting to learn Chinese for Chinese Singaporeans?

It is about your root

Former PM Lee did say something on it. However, this is missing in the English medium. Zaobao reported it as follows:

“To survive in Singapore, it will be hard without knowing English.  However, you will regret if you don’t have Mandarin.  It has nothing to do with the emergence of China.  It is because you need to know your root.”   


It is really a tall order. For many Singaporeans, our root is English not Chinese. This is why when the English medium report on the Chinese Hard Truths, they all want to select a headline to comfort their readers.

A strong language or message like the one in Zaobao may not serve the English readers well.  But in such a way who is telling the Hard Truths about the Chinese language in Singapore.  Zaobao, Straits Times, Today, Channelnewsasia all are telling the true stories to their readers or just want to please them by selecting the right angle to report on the Chinese Hard Truths.

Is Zaobao a main stream paper?

Zaobao is a main stream paper but certainly not the main stream of the main stream.  The honor has to go to the Straits Times and/or CNA.

So, the officially main stream position is there is no regret and there is no Chinese root to search for.  

Even though the honorable Lee Kuan Yew used the words of regret and root (in his Chinese speech), the real main stream media can still select headlines and key points that they want to report on. 

They may have a point as Lee did not say it in his English speech and so the official position is no regret no root as the master language in Singapore is English.

This, perhaps, is one of the biggest hard truths in Singapore. The controlled media is telling different readers different hard truths that they should receive from the main stream media. 

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