An evaluation of the Speak Mandarin Campaign within a dialect-speaking community
Scholars have observed that most literature on language planning is framed in the context of government involvement. Fishman (1989) in his landmark work, ascribes language planning to the work of the government by suggesting that language planning be viewed from the societal approach, one that points in societal directions and deals with the authoritative allocation of resources to the attainment of language status and language corpus goals. This study casts the spotlight on a deliberate language planning initiative by the Government in Singapore, the Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC). The SMC was initiated in 1979 by the then Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The specific objective of the campaign was to persuade all dialect- speakers in Singapore to discard the habit of speaking Chinese dialects and to speak Mandarin as a common language. The purpose of this study is to assess the effectiveness of the Speak Mandarin Campaign as a deliberate language planning effort by the Singapore government within a dialect-speaking community. It attempts to examine whether individuals in the community have adopted Mandarin in different domains of language use, and whether they have positive attitudes towards the use and status of Mandarin. In addition, the study also examines whether individual dialect-speakers have positive attitudes towards the SMC as a planned effort by the government to influence language usage. The tools for data collection consist of a sociolinguistic survey and a semi- structured interview. The results from the survey questionnaire and the semi- structured interview converge to show that the deliberate language planning by the government has indeed been effective in changing the linguistic habits of the dialect-speaking Chinese within the researched community and in embracing Mandarin as a language of preference and use.