Singapore Minister advocates introduction of Tamil to children

| Updated: 05 April, 2024 4:23 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Singapore’s Minister Indranee Rajah recently emphasized the importance of introducing children to the Tamil language at an early age. The minister, who is of Indian origin, stated that the Tamil language acts as a “passport” that links all Tamil people and is not something that one can only study. “You need to put it to use,” she added.

“Be it through television, social media, or print, as long as they are hearing, listening, and using the language from young, we can keep it alive,” Rajah was quoted by the Friday Weekly Tabla. This statement underscores the importance of constant exposure to the language in various forms of media to ensure its preservation and continued use.

The Tamil Language Council in Singapore (TLC) has been organizing the language festival for the past 18 years to uphold the rich legacy of the Tamil language. This year’s festival, launched by Minister Rajah, is centred on the theme of ‘capabilities’ and will feature 47 programs from March 30 to April 28. TLC chairperson S Manogaran said, “This year’s theme was selected to inspire the creation of innovative programs while harnessing our collective strengths.”

Interestingly, more than 65 per cent of the programs at the Tamil language festival are organized by the youth, indicating a renewed interest and purpose in learning and using Tamil among the younger generation.

The Singapore education system encourages the use of the mother tongue as a second language in schools. This includes Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, and other main Indian languages, as well as Tamil, Malay, and Chinese (Mandarin). Former Singapore cabinet minister S Iswaran also stressed the government’s commitment to keeping Tamil as an official language, expressing the government’s support for Tamil to be used as a language in parliament and as a subject in schools along with English, Chinese and Malay.

In today’s globalized world, multilingualism is more important than ever. Introducing children to the Tamil language at an early age would not only foster cultural diversity but also provide them with a competitive edge in their future careers. As one of the world’s oldest languages, Tamil is spoken by millions of people across the globe and is integral to Singapore’s rich multicultural tapestry.

The minister’s proposal has sparked a conversation about language education in Singapore. It remains to be seen how this pitch will be received by the education authorities and what steps will be taken to implement it.

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