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Promoting the use and appreciation of our four official languages

Response to parliamentary question on effectiveness of nationwide language campaigns

  1. Our four official languages form key aspects of our Singapore cultural identity and heritage and collectively anchor our national identity. They also provide a common means of communication within and across communities, allowing us to establish connections with our families, friends, colleagues, neighbours and society at large. 

  2. The various language campaigns helmed by their respective language councils and committees support Singapore’s bilingual policy. These efforts complement the formal learning of languages in schools and encourage greater mastery, use and appreciation of our official languages beyond the classrooms. 

  3. The Speak Good English Movement promotes the use of proper English for effective communication in multicultural Singapore. The English language helps us maintain our advantage in doing business and communicating with the world. The Mandarin, Malay and Tamil language councils promote the appreciation and use of our mother tongue languages through programmes and festivals such as the Speak Mandarin Campaign, Malay Language Festival or Bulan Bahasa and the Tamil Language Festival. These targeted efforts foster a greater appreciation of our cultural heritage and identity and enable us to better connect with wider communities in  Asia and across the world. 

  4. In addition to the work of these language councils, many community and interest groups also initiate and sustain efforts to promote their respective languages and cultures. For instance, Business China, the Tamil Representatives Council (TRC) and Angkatan Sasterawan ’50 (ASAS ’50) partner with the language councils to expand the appreciation of mother tongue languages and culture amongst Singaporeans. This year, in the area of the literary arts, the Singapore Writers Festival made special efforts to honour pioneer women writers of the Malay literary scene. The organisers also co-curated a range of programmes with local Chinese, Malay and Tamil language and literary partners and their communities.

    Impact & Findings


  5. Over the recent years, we have observed continued positive public response to the various language campaigns and programmes. Before embarking on their campaigns, the language councils and committees would set their aims and key performance indicators to measure the outreach and impact of their efforts, such as the number of participants, programmes and supporting partners, as well the strength of the digital reach of programmes. 

  6. We are heartened by the keen public response and participation in the different language campaigns. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, all four language campaigns presented an average of over 350 programmes annually from 2017 to 2019. During the pandemic period of 2020 and 2021, all four language campaigns pivoted to digital platforms and offered more than 600 programmes. This year, the language campaigns continue to receive strong support. For instance:

    1. The Speak Mandarin Campaign's signature Family Talent Competition recorded its highest participation with 1,168 family teams in 2022. This is double the participation numbers before COVID-19.
    2. The Malay Language Council, Singapore reached out to some 75,000 participants in the recent Malay Language Festival or Bulan Bahasa 2022. 
    3. The launch programme of the Tamil Language Festival 2022 alone reached more than 50,000 viewers.
    4. The Speak Good English Movement's foray into TikTok with a hashtag challenge garnered 2.2 million views.

  7. The collective efforts to promote our four official languages have borne fruit.  According to a poll by the Institute of Policy Studies in 2020, 78% of survey respondents said they could speak English “well” or “very well”. For mother tongue languages, 80% of Chinese respondents, 95% of Malay respondents, and 75% of ethnic Tamil respondents said they could speak their respective mother tongue languages “well” or “very well”. 

  8. The language councils and committees will continue to refresh their respective language campaigns and programmes to ensure that they remain relevant. MCCY will encourage and support the continued growth of such efforts to maintain the momentum achieved, as our four official languages form an indelible and active part of our Singapore identity. 
Last updated on 29 November 2022