Tamil language in multicultural Singapore: key issues in teaching and maintaining a minority language
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This chapter focuses on how Tamil, a minority language in Singapore, is being maintained by institutionalising it. As one of four official languages in Singapore, Tamil is taught from pre-primary to junior colleges as Mother Tongue, but its survival is threatened by the linguistic heterogeneity of the wider Indian community and a shift among Tamil-English bilinguals towards the link language or lingua franca of Singapore, English, even in the home domain. Tamil is now a household language to only about 37% of the Indian population. This emerging pattern of language use has been of concern to policy makers and curriculum planners, and has led to a review of pedagogical approaches that questions the functionality and relevance of the language variety being taught in schools/ To survive, the Tamil language has to live beyond the boundaries of the classroom and respond to the changing needs of a younger generation of Tamil bilinguals, and the continual demographic changes of twenty first century Singapore.
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