Thursday 20 November 2014

Bilingualism is key to maintaining Singapore's competitive edge: DPM Teo

By Nicole Tan, Channel NewsAsia18 Nov 2014

Singaporeans must sharpen their bilingual and bicultural edge to sustain the country's competitive advantage, urged Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Speaking at the Business China Awards ceremony on Tuesday (Nov 18), Mr Teo said: "Singaporeans have enjoyed a distinct bicultural edge when interacting with the Chinese, because many of us are able to read, write and speak both English and Chinese, and understand both Western and Chinese culture. However, many younger Chinese people speak very good English, and millions of people outside of China are learning Chinese. So we need to continue grooming bilingual and bicultural Singaporeans, in order to sustain this competitive advantage for Singapore."

Efforts to groom such bilingual professionals include offering translation as an A-level subject - this will be done at Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Junior College, Jurong Junior College and Dunman High School from next year. Mr Teo also said he hoped bilingual role models like singer-songwriter JJ Lin, one of the night's award recipients, would inspire more young people to learn the language well.

"We must also stay updated about the rapid changes in China's social, economic and political conditions. We will also need to continually augment our skillsets and adjust our strategies to remain relevant to China's changing development needs," Mr Teo urged.

Projects such as the Sino-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city reflect the high level of trust between Singapore and China, he said, and both governments are exploring more collaboration through areas such as financial integration and services.

Three awards were presented on Tuesday evening to recognise the efforts of organisations and individuals in building Singapore-China relations:
- Singer-songwriter JJ Lin received the Business China Young Achiever Award
- Dr Liu Thai Ker (pictured below), a senior director at RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, received the Business China Excellence Award
- The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) received the Business China Enterprise Award
The Business China Awards, organised by Business China and jointly presented by OCBC Bank, is now in its fifth year. It aims to honour professionals and organisations for their contributions to Singapore-China relations, and in doing so, hopes to promote bilingualism and biculturalism in the city-state.

The SCCCI, for instance, has helped to provide an extensive networking platform for businesses from both countries. Said SCCCI president Thomas Chua: "Our enterprise centre in Shanghai is actively helping local companies who intend to go to China for business opportunities. At the same time, there are also many Chinese companies interested in Singapore as a headquarters for them to expand into Southeast Asia."

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