Despite the fact that an overwhelming 78% of the population of Singapore being ethnic Chinese, Mandarin is fast losing popularity. This is exactly the opposite of what is going on in the world where fluency in Chinese is regarded as important for success. Many reasons have been cited for this disturbing trend. Most people think that the youth flee upon seeing Chinese because it is so hard to learn and have opted to learn English instead. Along with a decline of Mandarin, belief in Taoism the backbone of Chinese culture has also seen a decrease in followers and believers. This trend has a lot in common with the developments in Japan where the youth are dumping their heritage in favor of the easy going and less rigid life style of the west.
Since the 1980’s, Singapore has been attaching a lot of importance to English. Most Singaporeans are well read in English as are most of the highly skilled professionals who consider their fluency in English as being critical to their success. It is logical to assume that the youth who crave for success such as this would only follow in their footsteps.
Even the majority of those who know the language can only speak and understand oral conversations while knowing little about reading and writing. The Singapore government had launched the “Speak Mandarin Campaign” in 1978 with an aim to invigorate interest in the language by promoting books, magazines and recently CD ROMS in Mandarin. The latest efforts at this have been to make Mandarin more “cool” so that the youth may find it more appealing and concentrated on the lifestyle theme.