<source: The Straits Times Breaking News (29 Nov 2011)http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_739125.html


Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s new book, My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore’s Bilingual Journey, includes a collection of essays from 22 people.

One of them is Jim Rogers, an American investor who decided to settle in Singapore in 2007 because of its bilingual environment.

This is an extract from his essay:

Most of the people in the small town in Alabama where I grew up were barely aware there was another language besides English. Boy, has the world changed!

My small high school offered two years of French since ‘French is the international language – the language of diplomacy, business and culture.’ Clearly news was slow reaching Demopolis, Alabama.

So I excelled at French and went off to Yale University expecting to fulfil my language requirement. I sat in my French classes barely understanding everything the native French instructor was saying.

I suppose I could read and write some French, but my Alabama teacher’s French was nothing like this Frenchman’s.

One day we had a spot quiz, but I was not even aware we were having a test.

I have felt terribly inadequate about my inability to speak a foreign language ever since.

My insecurity only worsened during my years as an international investor and as a worldwide adventure traveller.

I knew I was always missing a lot. Plus it was always clear that the people who could speak the local language always had more of an audience even if they were uneducated con men than did a monolingual – even if he was a person of great accomplishment otherwise…………

……..All parents do whatever they can for their children. Some move to be near certain schools. Some move to be near good football coaches or tennis camps or music programmes.

I was determined that my daughter would be perfect at Mandarin so we started exploring Mandarin-speaking cities. We spent the summer of 2005 mainly in Shanghai with three weeks at the end in Singapore almost as an afterthought.

We focused on Hong Kong and other Chinese cities in 2006 with little time in Singapore. By the summer of 2007 we focused on Singapore with some time in China as well.

At the end of the summer our name came up on the waiting list at Nanyang Kindergarten, so the die was cast….