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Are Dialects Still Important In Singapore’s Cultural Heritage?

Our culture is what makes us who we are. It teaches us norms, provides us with a set of guidelines and helps us connect with other people in the community. Language is one of the most important aspects of any cultural heritage, as it helps us connect with the people around us.

Dialects are also vital to the cultural heritage of Singapore, as there are many cultures present in the country. So, if you want to understand their importance, you have come to the right place.

Here is a guide to help you understand how to preserve the cultural roots of our youth through dialects.

Dialects Explained

Before we move on to anything, we must understand what dialects are. These are branches of a language, which are also known as variations. For example, Kelantanese is a Malay dialect, and Cantonese is a Chinese dialect.

What you must remember is that a country can have the same official language, but different dialects will vary across different regions. That is because each region has a specific pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Dialects are a part of identity and culture, which is why young people must learn various dialects.

Discussion: Are Chinese dialects at risk of dying out in Singapore?

Dialects In Singapore

Now that you know what dialects are, you must understand the various dialects present in Singapore. Chinese dialects have become more obscure in recent times, and there is a language barrier as grandparents find it difficult to communicate with their grandchildren.

The younger generation of Singapore is learning Mandarin and English rather than focusing on their own cultural dialects. Most of the youth don't show an interest or don't learn the dialects until they are teenagers. Because of this, it has become more important than ever to focus on teaching dialects in school.

The Importance Of Learning Dialects

There should be a focus in Singapore on teaching the different youth dialects. Of course, there are many reasons for this. Some of these reasons include the following:

1. Better Communication

As we mentioned before, there is a language barrier because of which grandparents are unable to communicate with their grandchildren. The younger generation doesn’t understand the cultural dialects, which means their elders can’t connect with the children. During family time, the older generation doesn’t feel good that they don’t have a common language with the young in the family.

Of course, this language barrier can be reduced if the youth understand the cultural dialects. This is why it is important to teach children these dialects from an early age. Once they learn these dialects, they will be able to converse much better with other generations.

2. Deeper Connections With Others

Singapore is a mix of many cultural heritages, and the communication barrier is a big problem. When kids learn different dialects, they will have the opportunity to build a deeper connection with their peers and converse with them. Besides that, as they get older, they will be exposed to different places, cultures, and other such things.

Of course, when they know a certain dialect, they will be much more confident in speaking and making connections. We live in a global village, which is why it is important to learn different dialects and communicate. When children have a solid background in such dialects from an early age, they will engage in creating deeper connections.

3. Getting Close To Cultural Heritage And Roots

All of us have a certain background that we come from, and dialect is an important reflection of that background. If we want to stay connected to our cultural roots and heritage, then we must make an effort to learn those dialects. When this happens, it will also become easier for the older generation to pass down their cultural traditions, lessons, stories, and much more.

On the other hand, young children can also learn about the history behind the dialects and how they have come to be. Of course, such knowledge will ensure that they appreciate their culture and heritage in a much better way. So, teaching dialects from a young age in schools is important in Singapore.

4. Future Prospects

We are living in a globalized world, and many people know Mandarin and English, as they have become incredibly useful for such communications. While other dialects are not as globalized, they are still important to know. For example, the official language of Hong Kong is Cantonese.

If this dialect is taught inside schools in Singapore, then the youth can also have a better prospect of communicating with people from Hong Kong. In the long run, this can increase their chances of getting a job or doing business in Hong Kong. In the same way, it is crucial to teach various dialects to kids so that they can have a bright future throughout the world.

How To Incorporate Teaching Dialects In School

Of course, schools have to find a way to teach different dialects so that students can have various options at their disposal. It will not be easy to incorporate this because kids already have a high workload. However, here are some easy ways to incorporate teaching dialects in Singapore schools:

1. Arrange Workshops

A great way to teach dialects is to arrange workshops. It will allow the students to learn the dialects in a more practical manner. Besides that, you can make the material available from the workshops online so that students can access it later on.

The best part is that you can collaborate with other language organizations that teach various dialects and provide resources. It will minimize your burden and ensure that students have a way of learning and being interested in the dialect. Once the workshop is done, it can encourage the students to learn these dialects independently.

Of course, this means that the school will not have to waste their effort, time, and resources in the long run. Instead, they can give students the kickstart they need to begin their journey of learning a new dialect.

2. As A Third Language

Another option that schools have at their disposal is to teach a dialect as a third language as part of the standard curriculum. Of course, the language can only be provided to those students who can manage the first two languages that they have. Besides that, another issue is that there are endless dialects that a school will have to choose from

Even when they have chosen a dialect, they will have to find sufficient teachers to teach these dialects. A simple solution to teaching a dialect as a third language would be to provide a handful of dialects to the students. For example, schools can select dialects that would help students with future prospects.

Once they do, it will become easier for the school to manage to teach these dialects. On the other hand, it will also become easier for the students to learn. So, it will be a win-win situation for both parties involved.

3. Cultural Clubs And Activities

Students are more willing to take part in extracurricular activities and stay back after school. That is because such activities are fun and motivate the students to learn things not taught as a subject. As a result, schools can provide cultural clubs and activities to raise awareness about the dialects and promote different cultures.

For example, there can be a cultural club that can promote dialects such as Malay, Cantonese, and many others. The purpose of the club would be to encourage the students to be interested in learning the language and connecting with their culture. The best part is that students will be more willing to participate because they will not have to stress about exams.

So, it will prove to be an enjoyable activity for them. You can make this a part of their CCA to ensure that they are learning and having fun at the same time.

4. Masterclass

Finally, students can also learn various dialects through Masterclass. Schools can arrange a Masterclass for all students where they will have access to people from various fields to teach the dialect. For example, schools can collaborate with associations, famous people from the heritage, and much more.

Once the school collaborates, they can develop various resources to get the children interested in the dialect. These resources can be in the form of short films, audio lessons, and much more. All of this will boost the willingness of children to learn the dialect in a much more fun manner.

Once children have such exposure to the dialect, they will also want to learn it independently. Schools can hold various Masterclasses, depending on the dialects that they want to teach the children.  

Top Resources To Teach Children Dialects At Home

Schools are not the only place where young children can learn dialects in Singapore. Instead, they spend most of their time at home, which is why parents can also teach dialects using different resources. If you are serious about your child learning more about your cultural heritage, you can start teaching them at home.

There are many resources available that will help you impart knowledge of these dialects to your kids. Here are some of the top resources for you to help children teach dialects at home:

1. Community Centers

There are many community centres in Singapore that will help teach your children the various dialects. The purpose of these places is to impart knowledge and culture outside the school. For example, there is the Ngee Ann Kongsi Organization, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, and many others that offer lessons.

You can check these organizations and community centres out to decide whether they are the right choice for your children. Of course, you can also search for these organizations in your locality. Once you do, you will have a much better idea of what you can choose.

2. Online Resources

If you don't want your children to leave the comfort of their homes, then you can always opt for online resources to teach them the dialect. There are endless online resources that you can teach from. These include YouTube videos, audiobooks, virtual classes, and many others that will take the learning of your kids to another level.

The best part about online resources is that they make learning fun and engaging for children. So, you will boost their motivation to learn more about the dialect and culture. Once you do, they will learn the dialect in no time.

3. Stories And Traditions

If you want your children to learn your cultural dialect, then it is crucial to use different methods to help the child connect with the essence of the dialect. Some great ways to do this is to impart stories and traditions to your children using the dialect. It will help them understand what you are saying and also the context of what you are saying.

Children will also be more eager to learn these stories and find out more about them as you impart such knowledge. So it will facilitate an easy understanding of what you want to teach. There are also many books that you can get to teach children these dialects.

A simple online search will help you find such books in no time. You can also search various resources in your cultural community that will help you teach your children. Once you do, they will learn the dialects and apply them in their daily life in no time.

Final Thoughts

That was your complete guide to understanding why dialects are still important in the cultural heritage of Singapore. They are an important part of the culture and history, which is why it is crucial to incorporate them into the culture. Schools can do their part, and so can parents.

Whether you are a parent or teacher, you can find a way to incorporate different dialects for the ease and convenience of children. It is our duty to help them connect with their culture and heritage from an early age. So, you must do your duty in no time.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.