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IN SEARCH OF NEW FORUMS: THE IMPACT OF BILINGUAL POLICY AND "SPEAK MANDARIN" CAMPAIGN ON SINOPHONE SINGAPORE POETRY

Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. Special Issue: Singapore at 50: At the Intersections of Neoliberal Globalization and Postcoloniality on Singapore, 18.4 (2016): 526–542.

 

Dr. E.K. Tan

This essay examines language reform in the first two decades of Singapore's independence in 1965, specifically the bilingual education policy and the ‘Speak More Mandarin, Less Dialects’ campaign. The policy and campaign simultaneously divide and restructure the heterogeneous Sinophone community into a cohesive homologous unit with the promotion of Mandarin as the common language among the various Sinitic dialect groups. The policy and campaign also directly impacted the relationship between the Chinese, Indian and Malay communities and their mother tongues. Mandarin was assigned as the mother tongue to all Sinophone Singaporeans, serving as a maternal figure to preserve cultural traditions against western influence in a rapidly modernizing, postcolonial nation-state. This essay analyses three contemporary Sinophone poems, showing how each of them directly or indirectly responds to the impact of the bilingual policy and the ‘Speak Mandarin’ campaign on Singapore society and its literary traditions.

For relevant work, see

〈華語語系*南洋:多元文化和語言〉 [Sinophone * Nanyang: Multiculturalism and Multilingualism]. 《華語語系 10 講》 [10 Lectures on Sinophone Studies]. Taiwan: Linking Publishing. (April 2020)