Speak Mandarin Campaign posterA couple of posts ago I was talking about Singlish, and the Singaporean government’s attempts to promote English.

Now it seems, however, that Mandarin is the favoured language. Whilst the Speak Mandarin Campaign has been around for a long time, now it is being actively promoted over English. This seems to make economic sense at least, with Mandarin spoken by approximately 870 million people and the Chinese economy being the third largest, as well as the fastest growing in the world.

Interestingly, the Minister promoting the campaign also actively discourages dialects, saying:

Learning dialects will add to our children’s burden, and take away time and energy from English and Mandarin. Dialects also cause negative interferences on the learning of English and Mandarin, due to differences in their vocabulary, phonetics and syntax.

With Mandarin, we can connect with the whole of China and its 1.3 billion people. Dialects will confine us to our original village or town or at the most, the province of our ancestors.

Personally I think this is a shame as dialects contribute to the diversity of languages and can be an integral part of a person’s cultural identity. There is debate among linguists however, as to whether people should be encourage to eliminate these “non-standard” ways of speaking. This Singaporean certainly seems to have a stong opinion on the subject.