Multilingual, Globalizing Asia: Implications for policy and education. AILA Review, Volume 22
  • ISSN 1461-0213
  • E-ISSN: 1570-5595
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This paper considers the real mother tongues of Singapore, namely the Chinese ‘dialects’ and Singlish, the linguistic varieties which, respectively, arrived with the original immigrants to the rapidly developing British colony, and evolved in the dynamic multilingual ecology over the decades. Curiously these mother tongues have been regarded with fear and treated with loathing in the official language policies and accompanying prestige planning that have been developed and executed in Singapore since independence, being actively denigrated and discouraged in official discourse, viewed as not having a place in the globalization goals of the nation. Looking beyond the official line and census figures, actual linguistic practices of the community of speakers testify to the vitality of these varieties, in spite of the official sanctions; moreover, in spite of itself, the government does in fact allow itself the use of these mother tongues when certain contexts call for it. This paper suggests that an enlightened consideration of native ‘dialects’ and nativized Singlish and the plurilingual practices in which they are used, as well as of the question of intelligibility, must point policy makers in directions where fears are assuaged and spaces made for the natural existence and evolution of such varieties in multilingual ecologies.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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