TRILINGUAL/MULTILINGUAL POLICY: COMPARISON OF KAZAKHSTAN, SINGAPORE, AND HONG KONG

multilingual

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Kazakhstan is a multiethnic country. In Kazakhstan, no nation’s language is restricted or prohibited to learn, which is noticeable from support of the government that allows learning and teaching those languages even in social minorities.

Today, one of the most important aspects occurring in the Kazakhstani society of economic and social modernization is language policy. The President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, pays much attention to this part of state policy and proposed a unique project initiated – the trinity of languages (President’s Speech, 2004, as cited in Burmistrova). From that moment and on there started a new language policy of independent Kazakhstan, which is still being implemented and needs a lot effort to work on. In order to analyze the current situation in Kazakhstan, I decided to compare our country with 2 more countries – Hong Kong and Singapore that have multilingual policy. Kazakhstan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are post – colonial countries, so there must be some similarities and interconnections of educational policies and post – colonial effects on language policy.

Kazakhstan, Hong Kong and Singapore are all post – colonial countries, where Hong Kong and Singapore appeared to be under British Colony, and Kazakhstan is a post – soviet country. Singapore and Kazakhstan could easily get their sovereignty, whereas Hong Kong was recolonized rather than decolonized (Tan, 1997). Singapore and Hong Kong got English as a post – colonial language, which is still present in their language curricula, while Kazakhstan was influenced by Russian language dominance, which also appears in current practice.

Singapore is a trilingual country, where English is the first language of the country (Chua, 2010). In Singapore “English language functions as a meritocracy to provide equal opportunity for all Singaporeans to succeed without being advantaged or disadvantaged by their native languages” (Chua, 2010). And MTL, i.e. Mandarin for Chinese, Malay for Malays, and Tamil for Indians are the other languages of the country. This differentiation and division is the impact or influence of British colonialism – they were divided this way during the colonization period as well (Chua, 2010).

Although the majority of the population of Singapore are Chinese, nowadays the performance of students in Chinese is low, since the demanded language is English (Chua, 2010). So, it is obvious that the role of mother tongue is low in Singapore.

Hong Kong as a state also has a trilingual system of education, which are Cantonese, Putonghua, and English. Cantonese is the mother tongue of the state, and government policy is trying to foster it through primary school education as the medium of instruction (Kirkpatrick & Chau, 2008, as cited in Wang & Kirkpatrick, 2013). Putonghua and Chinese are varieties of Chinese language, but they differ in syntax, lexis, and phonology (Pierson, 1992, as cited in Lai & Byram, 2003).

In spite of having trilingual system of education, Hong Kong, as Kazakhstan, is poor about its policy (Wang & Kirkpatrick, 2013) – they do not have clear policies for the implementation of trilingual policy in the state system of education, and there are no clear guidelines. However, both states’ stakeholders are in favor of implementing trilingual system of education (Wang & Kirkpatrick, 2013).

Kazakhstan, in comparison to Hong Kong, is aimed to practise Kazakh as a state language, Russian as a language of communication, and English as the language to integrate into global community. However, what makes these states similar is the lack of clear policy guidelines, which need to be enhanced.

Having compared and analyzed trilingual policies of Singapore and Hong Kong, it deserves saying that no other country can copy a system of education of another country and implement in its state. Every step and policy must be adopted due to cultural, ethic, geopolitical, sociopolitical contexts of the country.

Singapore and Hong Kong are quite similar in some cases, but not totally. As the recommendation we could enhance mother tongue education in Kazakhstan from the practice of Hong Kong, and let the majority citizens choose what language to study as a medium of instruction. However, Singapore’s example of similar policy for everybody makes us think about the success they achieved through this policy.

I hope that Kazakhstan is already trying to implement the best of practice all over the world. However, the lacking part is clear guidelines, which is again from the practice of Hong Kong may lead to significant problems.

Having assumed the whole literature I came up with several pivotal key points, I think, we have to always keep in mind:

  • policy guidelines;

Policy guidelines of trilingualism must be enhanced and developed for better.

  • the importance of mother tongue and possibility of loss of mother tongue at all;
  • globalization may lead to loss of many languages in the world, cautiousness needed;
  • post – colonial influence is not always a disadvantage.

Reference:

Burmistrova V. PhD, Main features of the project “The trinity of the languages” and its implementation in Kazakhstan, Karaganda State Medical University, Kazakhstan Retrieved from: www.rusnauka.com

Chua, S. (2010). Singapore’s language policy and its globalised concept of Bi(tri)lingualism. Current Issues in Language Planning, 11(4), 413-429.

Lai, P., & Byram, M. (2003). The Politics of Bilingualism: A reproduction analysis of the policy of mother tongue education in Hong Kong after 1997. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 33(3), 315-334.

Tan, J. (1997). Education and Colonial Transition in Singapore and Hong Kong: Comparisons and contrasts. Comparative Education, 33(2), 303-312.

Wang, L., & Kirkpatrick, A. (2013). Trilingual education in Hong Kong primary schools: A case study. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 16(1), 100-116.

2 thoughts on “TRILINGUAL/MULTILINGUAL POLICY: COMPARISON OF KAZAKHSTAN, SINGAPORE, AND HONG KONG

  1. Thank you, Arai, for informing us on the trilingual policies in Singapore and Hong Kong. I suppose this analysis can help us to avoid repeating the mistakes of other countries. I am also interested in comparative education. Thus, I have additionally sought for information on language policies in Singapore and Hong Kong. After that I have came up with several conclusions. First, it is obvious that English, as a global language, dominates over other languages. People understand and appreciate its instrumental value. Therefore, students are highly cajoled to master the language. Second, some ethnic minorities feel stressed because the trilingualism puts supplementary pressure on multilingual children. For instance, a Tamil speaker in Hong Kong has to study equally English, Cantonese and Putonghua plus own mother tongue. It results on students’ overload and decline of motivation. Third, some languages have low status connected with the socioeconomic status of the speech community. This may cause the neglection of the mother tongue.
    In the nutshell, I suppose that clear guidelines, mentioned by you, highly needed when introducing the trilingual policy. Additionally, the policy documents must provide clear indicators of language proficiency required and define in what domains the languages will be used.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Aisara! I totally agree with you! The case of a not motivated Tamil speaker might be reflected on minority language speakers of Kazakhstan, for instance Uzbeks, Uyghurs, and etc. However, the situation in Kazakhstan is a bit different, since most of minorities already practise Russian or Kazakh languages within their families depending on geographical regions.
      For deeper analysis, I would also like to learn about the case of Canada as a multicultural and multilingual country.

      Liked by 1 person

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