Speeches

Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister of State, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education, at World Hindi Day 2012, on Saturday, 11 February 2012, at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Building at 6.50pm

Mr Tsewang Namgyal,
Deputy High Commissioner of India to Singapore

Mr Ranvir Kumar Singh,
President, The Hindi Society (Singapore)

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to join you today at this annual event to promote the awareness and use of Hindi language. Hindi is regarded as the third most widely spoken language in the world, after Mandarin and English. The learning of Hindi is beneficial not only for commerce but also for the knowledge and wisdom of an ancient civilisation. Tonight, we have a joyful celebration, richly immersed in the culture and tradition of the Hindi-speaking community. At the same time, we have diverse groups in Singapore, each celebrating different occasions and yet sharing common bonds as one people. All this highlights the vibrant facet of Singapore’s multi-cultural society.

Value of A Mother Tongue Education

Bilingualism has been one of the fundamental tenets of the education policy in Singapore. Every child is required to learn English and his/her mother tongue in school.

The study of the mother tongue is essential for many reasons. Knowledge of one’s mother tongue promotes the preservation of one’s culture and values and provides access to the fountain of knowledge and wisdom preserved by a civilisation through many years of learning and experience. Cultural values are an indispensable part of character development. A mother tongue education serves to inculcate in our young time-tested values and principles. These values give them with an anchor in a world of change. The study of the mother tongue also helps our young people gain a sense of identity and self-respect, and provides them with access to their culture. The study of the Indian languages, for instance, grants entry to not just a great ancient civilisation, but one that is still alive and being replenished by new scholarship, new artists and new ideas.

World Hindi Day Celebration

In this regard, I am glad that the Hindi-speaking community has come together to provide our children with a mother tongue education. In particular, the Hindi Society has done much to uplift the profile of Hindi language in Singapore. Its mission is to teach children from Hindi-speaking families their mother tongue as a means of transmitting values and preserving valuable traditions. In doing so, you ensure the relevance of Hindi and Indian culture in Singapore.

The work of the Hindi Society is made possible by its team of dedicated volunteers, committed teachers and the vision of the Society’s leaders. I am glad that the Hindi Society is continuously making efforts for students to learn and use Hindi through various enrichment programmes such as Speech & Drama, Reading, Poetry Recitation and Story-Telling. Since 1998, the Hindi Centres have produced localised Hindi teaching materials, which make learning more meaningful and relevant by anchoring it in a familiar context. I commend the Hindi Centres and the Hindi Society for their many achievements.

The celebration of World Hindi Day provides students and adults with yet another forum to promote the awareness and use of Hindi. Indeed events like this help to enhance the richness and vibrancy of our multi-lingual and multi-cultural society.

Beyond The Community

I would also like to commend Hindi Society for its efforts in reaching out to other communities in Singapore. It has invited representatives from other communities to its cultural festivals to experience first-hand the community’s unique traditions and celebrations such as Raksha Bandhan. It also conducts introductory Hindi classes for non-Hindi speakers, and those have been well-received. As Singaporeans, it is imperative that we continue to maintain links with other ethnic communities in Singapore. And we must instil this habit in our young, so that they continue to interact and form closer ties with other communities.

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to commend the High Commission of India in Singapore and the Hindi Society for organising this event. I urge you to continue with the good work. Let me also extend my best wishes to all the participants at this evening’s competitions.