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Mother Tongue

“ … the mother tongue of a Singaporean refers to the official language assigned to their racial group (Mandarin for Chinese, Malay for Malays and Tamil for most Indians), regardless of the language spoken at home.” Anthea Fraser Gupta, The Step-tongue: Children’s English in Singapore, 1994

“ … when my mother was a young child, she lived with her parents and paternal grandmother. her parents were both immigrants to Singapore, from different regions of southern China. she spoke Cantonese with her parents and Hakka with her grandmother. when she started school, she was ascribed English as a first-language and Mandarin as her mother tongue, which she spoke in school and with neighbours. she also learned Malay, the national language of Singapore, at a basic level.” jee chan, 2024