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Singapore has a booming appetite to learn Chinese
In Singapore, a nation state of more than 20 language, this is nothing special - not even for pupils who have just turned three.
The children are already adding another language to their repertoire: Mandarin Chinese.
"It is a very important language in my opinion," says Hilli Derold, whose two daughters, Emma and Maria, can now exchange morning greetings in three languages.
"Asia is the place to be for the future. By learning Mandarin, the girls will have a better understanding of the Chinese culture."
Multilingual education
Throughout the education system here, students are raised to be multilingual.
Sixteen-year-old Nikhil Choudhary can communicate in three widely spoken languages of the world.
"I speak English, my first language, Hindi, my mother tongue, Chinese and a bit of French," he says.
"I started studying Mandarin when I was at kindergarten. Initially it was not my choice. I have to thank my Principal at the kindergarten who had given my parents the opportunity to let me take up Chinese."
Nikhil''s language skills will certainly open more doors for him in the future.
"I would like to become an ambassador for India to China," he says.
"It has been my dream since I was very young, to integrate China and India."
Chinese culture
There are four official languages in Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.
When the country gained independence in 1965, the government decided to keep English as the main language in order to maximise economic prosperity.
Mandarin, however, has always been an important language too.
People of Chinese descent are the largest ethnic group, making up three quarters of the population.
In 1979, the Speak Mandarin Campaign was launched by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and it has been re-launched annually since.
And as China climbs the global economic ladder, Singapore is pushing the usage of the language.
"The rise of China has pragmatic implications for the Chinese community in Singapore," says Lim Sau Hoong, chairperson of the Promote Mandarin Council.
"The campaign has moved beyond promoting the spoken language towards engaging Chinese Singaporeans to better appreciate the Chinese culture."
(Source from BBC)