Learning third language ignited their passion
One man writes multilingual plays, another is adept at a few languages
For playwright and entrepreneur Isaiah Lee, 21, learning Bahasa Indonesia as a third language in Secondary 1 was not his first option.
He wanted to take French but was not accepted. Within the first year of taking Bahasa Indonesia at the Ministry of Education Learning Centre (MOELC), he began to fall in love with the language and culture.
He cited two immersion trips, to Medan and Yogyakarta in Indonesia, as the most memorable time over the four years he studied the language.
He watched Indonesian plays during the trips.
"Watching performances in the home countries of the foreign language was really memorable," said Mr Lee.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung spoke about the practicality of regional languages in his speech at a biennial conference for teachers yesterday.
"Job and economic opportunities are opening up in the region, and in time, more young Singaporeans will find themselves working outside Singapore, not in New York or London, but in Shanghai, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.
"It will be more practical to teach these regional languages for functional use, which will come in handy if our students venture into these countries one day," said Mr Ong.
Inspired by his experience learning Bahasa Indonesia, Mr Lee has written plays that are multilingual and aspires to introduce a more multilingual approach to Singaporean theatre.
MOELC offers eight languages - Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese and Malay at the secondary level; and French, German, Japanese and Spanish at both the secondary and junior college levels.
Mr Ong noted in his speech that MOE will be exploring ways to make learning a third language more flexible.
"For example, it need not be treated as a four-year long marathon that starts from Sec 1 and ends at the O-level examinations. The current mode makes this a binary choice for secondary school students - either take the examination or drop out altogether."
Enterprise Singapore deputy director of water and environment Yap Cheng Boon, 36, studied Japanese for his O and A levels and has gone on to learn French, German and Bahasa Indonesia.
He relishes the challenge and the skills that come with learning. His career has also benefited from his linguistic ability.
Said Mr Yap: "In one job I had a regional role, and had Japanese clients. When they know you speak their language, they warm up a to you lot faster."
At his current job at Enterprise Singapore, his language skills help him to support Singapore companies to expand overseas.