What is a Mother Tongue Language (MTL)?
An MTL is typically the language you first encountered at birth, are best at, and use the most, but in Singapore, we’re assigned our MTLs by race. These are the MTLs we study in school.
While most people in Singapore speak English and it’s the business language of the country, it’s not often considered our mother tongue.
Still, we study our Mother Tongue for a reason.
So why is it important for you to teach our MTLs?
Allows Connection Across Asia
There are three official MTLs offered in Singapore: Malay, Chinese and Tamil. For non-Tamil Indians, MTLs include non-Tamil Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati.
Several communities across Asia speak these same languages.
When you educate your students in their MTL, they’ll be able to communicate with other people across the continent who speak the same language!
This lets them learn about each other’s culture and form connections. It’s always nice to meet someone who knows how to speak your language, after all.
This actually brings me to my next point:
Increases the Job Prospects for Your Students
Being able to speak their MTL increases the range of jobs your students can take in the future.
Maybe they won’t be satisfied with the local job market and want to travel overseas, or other countries simply provide better opportunities in their opinion.
Most students will be fluent in English, but not their MTL. Teaching them their MTL and helping them improve in it gives them a wider skillset to use in the future.
Singapore has links to countries with large economies like China and India, and so knowing Mandarin or Indian languages is useful for those who want to boost their job prospects in these markets.
Some of the MTLs we study in Singapore are also commonly used in neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.
If students don’t want to travel too far from home, they can go to neighbouring countries for their job.
Staying True to Their Roots
The world of Asian culture can be better appreciated if your students understand their MTL.
For example, many Singaporean elderly may not be able to converse in English. A student who knows Malay or is studying it in school can talk to their loved ones more easily when they know the language better.
Having a channel of communication with their elderly relatives gives them opportunities to interact with them.
They’ll also be able to understand Malay songs, read Malay texts, watch Malay shows, enjoy Malay pop culture and do many other things.
Of course, there is much more to culture and heritage than just what has been listed.
However, teaching them their MTL essentially allows them to appreciate their culture and maybe even other cultures.
That’s cool and all, but it’s mostly for their personal enjoyment, isn’t it? So you may be wondering: Why is it important for them to appreciate their culture and cultures in general?
Different cultures in our world are part of what gives humanity diversity.
Appreciating different cultures helps in their preservation because they’ll be remembered and people will be interested in keeping them alive.
In the case of Singapore, this helps preserve the unique racial composition that our country has, keeping Singapore truly Singapore.
Whether we love or hate the MTL, it is a compulsory subject being taught in school.
Knowing an MTL is a useful skill to have and is important not just as a skill, but important to preserve cultures across Asia.
Do let us know what other reasons you think our Mother Tongue is so important!