Bilingualism is an important skill in Singapore, as all students are required to be fluent in English AND their mother tongue language. Both languages are compulsory and counted in the final scores for all the major exams, and depending on whether one has met the requirements, students may be required to learn their mother tongue as a subject up till JC or even university.
However, many families today don’t even speak their mother tongue at home, and children simply find it easier to stick to English for everything. After all, their classes in school are 90% conducted in English. So, how can parents ensure that their child is sufficiently bilingual to preserve their heritage as well as to not let their language skills be an impediment to their studies?
1. Bilingualism starts at home
In Singapore, we are at an advantage to cultivate bilingual learners, because parents today are expected to already be bilingual. So, it’s time to dust off your rusty language skills and make the effort to converse in both languages, not just one.
Make it a point to converse with your child in both languages. If you need an intentional plan, you can designate mealtimes to be “Mandarin-speaking time” or choose alternate days to speak each language. When there is an actual need and habit to converse in another language, children will be more inclined to use that language as well. This also creates more natural opportunities for children to use the language, which will help them learn it better instead of merely memorising stuff from the textbook.