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Mother tongue anchor of our life and spirit

By Ruby Wood,2014-12-05 19:55
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Mother tongue anchor of our life and spiritour,life,and,Our,Life

    Mother tongue: anchor of our life and spiritBy Prof Tu Weiming LANGUAGE, spoken and written, is the most fundamental of all cultural abilites. Man is a cultural animal, and the use of language is indispensable for a human being to learn about himself, understand his fellow creatures, and comprehend Nature. Our mother tongue is the medium through which we express feelings, convey messages, and form ideas while living in this world. This is an indisputable statement. What can be done to make the Chinese language, both spoken and written, one of the cultural resources that ethnic Chinese in Singapore feel proud of? This should become the common concern of all public-minded intellectuals who care about society, political life and cultural affairs. Chinese Malaysians have achieved a great deal in promoting their mother tongue. In recent years, Chinese students from Malaysia have won prizes in international debate contests and essay-writing competitions held in Taiwan. They have earned accolades from the cultured circles of various Chinese societies. This shows that, given an able leadership with a consensus reached by the elite, plus the strong wishes of the families concerned, a Chinese community can do a good job in passing down its native language through persistent efforts even under not-so-conducive circumstances. It must be emphasised that being able to converse, read and write a letter in one's native language is only the first step. Further upgrading is needed to make Chinese a major medium through which Singapore's public-minded intellectuals can discuss important national and even globalissues, pass down and enrich their cultural heritage and record their delicate and profound thoughts. In this age of the Internet, English accounts for 70 per cent of the world's total volume of communication, French accounts for 5 per cent, while the other major languages including Chinese share a mere 5 per cent. Considering that Chinese(mainly Mandarin(claims the world's largest number

    of speakers, its share in global communication is far too small. I hope that Singapore's public-minded intellectuals, with a global vision who will be playing an active role in academic pursuits, government and non-government affairs, mass media, business, religion and social activities, will help create greater scope for the development of the Chinese language. We must bear in mind that language, spoken and written,is more than a useful tool. It is also the anchor of our life and spirit, namely, our deep-rooted cultural identity. (The author is a professor at Harvard University and a member of International Advisory Panel on Culture, Lianhe Zaobao. Translated by Allen Zhuang) 母语是安身立命的助缘 杜维明教授文化能力的基本工夫是语

    言文字。人是文化动物,因此运用语言文字是任何一个人在学习认识自我,理解他人和了解

    自然的过程中都不可或缺的条件。母语成为我们生活世界中表现感情,传达信息和进行思考

    的媒介。这本是不刊之论。 如何使华语华文成为新加坡华人社会引以自豪的文化资源,应是

    关心政治、参与社会和重视文化的公众知识分子的共同事业。 马来西亚的华语华文的提倡近

    年来在国际大专辩论会和台湾举行的征文比赛中,获得文化中国知识界同声赞扬,充分显示

    只要领导有方,社会贤达有共识,华人家庭有强烈的意愿,通过细水长流的积累,即使大环

    境很差,成绩仍大有可观。 必须强调的是,能够用母语谈天、读书和写信是第一步,接着便

    需要进一步提升,让华语华文也成为新加坡公众知识分子在讨论家国天下大事,进行文化传

    承和创新以及记录精致思维的重要资源。 在网际网络的时代,英文媒介的比重已在百分之七

    十,法文约占百分之五,包括中文在内的其他主要语言,才合占百分之五,但是普通话,华

    语!仍是世界口语人数之最,这个对比太悬殊。 希望将来新加坡具有全球视野的在学术、政

    府、媒体、企业、民间、宗教和社会运动中,扮演积极角色的公众知识分子,能为华语华文创造发展的空间。我们必须牢记口语文字不只是工具,而且也是我们安身立命,深层文化认同!的助缘。 ,作者是哈佛大学教授、哈佛燕京学社主任、新加坡《联合早报》国际文化咨询团成员。!

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