Effects Of The Tok And Teo Family

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SINGAPORE — The Tok and Teo families are a model of traditional harmony, with three generations gathered under one roof, enjoying each other’s company over slices of fruit and cups of tea on a Saturday afternoon in Singapore. There is only one problem: The youngest and oldest generations can barely communicate with each other. Lavell, 7, speaks fluent English and a smattering of Mandarin Chinese, while her grandmother, Law Ngoh Kiaw, prefers the Hokkien dialect of her ancestors’ home in southeastern China. That leaves grandmother and granddaughter looking together at a doll house on the floor, unable to exchange more than a few words. “She can’t speak our Hokkien,” Mrs. Law said with a sigh, “and doesn’t really want to speak Mandarin, either.” This struggle to communicate within families is one of the painful effects…show more content…
“There was a sense of loss.” Then, in 1987, to foster unity across Singapore’s three major ethnic groups, Chinese, Indian and Malay, English became the main method of instruction in all schools. Today, almost all instruction is in English except for a class in the student’s native tongue: Tamil and Malay for ethnic Indians and Malays, and Mandarin for ethnic Chinese. The dominance of English was captured in a recent government survey that showed English is the most widely spoken language at home, followed by Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Only 12 percent of Singaporeans speak a Chinese dialect at home, according to the survey, compared with an estimated 50 percent a generation ago. “Sometimes people say the Singaporeans aren’t too expressive,” said Kuo Jian Hong, the artistic director of The Theater Practice, an influential theater founded by her father, the pioneering playwright and arts activist Kuo Pao Kun. “I feel this is partly because so many of us lost our mother

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