China and U.S. study abroad programs

China remained the fifth most popular destination for U.S. students studying abroad during the 2008/09 school year, and it continued to account for 5 percent of U.S. study abroad.

In the previous academic year, growth for the PRC as a destination increased 19.0 percent, while study abroad as a whole increased 8.5 percent. But for 2008/09 growth for China was a much smaller 3.9 percent, while the total worldwide figure declined -0.8 percent. Figures for the top four destinations also dropped.

The order of the top 10 remained the same as in the previous year, except Mexico and Germany switched places.

Top 10 destinations for study abroad by U.S. students in the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 school years
China shown as the fifth most popular destination for study abroad. The top destination is the U.K., followed by Italy, Spain, and France. See the link to my source material for the actual numbers.

Some other figures of possible interest:

  • Japan was in 11th place with 5,784 students, a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year.
  • Taiwan’s total grew 3.3 percent to 597.
  • Hong Kong grew 5.7 percent to 1,155.
  • South Korea grew a dramatic 29.1 percent to 2,062.
  • Singapore grew 7.7 percent to 612.

Study in Asia increased slightly.

Percent of study abroad performed in Asia
chart showing percentage of study abroad in Asia flat at about 6% from 1996-2000, with growth increasing since 2003 to the present 11.1% for the 2008-09 school year

source: Open Doors data portal

Previous posts on this subject:

sg domain names in Chinese characters lag

Between November, 23, 2009, when Singapore first began registering .sg names in Chinese characters, and June 10, 2010, when registrations of Chinese-character .sg domain names opened to all without any additional fee, only 1,024 such names were registered, or just 0.88 percent of all .sg domain names. This apparently includes not just second-level domains (e.g., ??.sg) but also third-level domains (e.g., ??

The percentage will likely rise in the coming months, as the process has only recently opened to everyone on a first-come, first-served basis. But, still, demand for such names in Singapore has so far been underwhelming.

A bit more information:

Registrations were accepted in phases, with registrations for government organizations starting on Nov. 23, 2009. Beginning in January, SGNIC began accepting domain name registrations from trademark holders.

During the third phase, the general public was allowed to register domain names starting on March 25, but applicants were charged a “priority fee” of S$100 (US$72) for each domain name, with domain names sought by several applicants awarded to the highest bidder.

In all three phases, applicants could apply for a domain name made up of Chinese numbers or a name with just one Chinese character for a fee of S$500 [US$360]….

The fourth and final phase began on June 10, with SGNIC accepting domain name applications on a first-come, first-served basis. The S$100 priority fee is no longer required, but applicants are no longer allowed to register domain names using Chinese numbers or names with just one Chinese character….

When IDA announced the introduction of Chinese-language domain names last year, SGNIC said the effort was partly intended to help Singaporean businesses target the Chinese market.

source: Singapore registers 1,000 Chinese-language domain names, IDG News Service, June 23, 2010

‘dialects’ wasting ‘important neurons’ needed for Mandarin, English: Lee Kuan Yew

In 1979 Singapore launched its campaign for people there to “Strike Hard Against Hoklo, Cantonese, and Other Languages that Your Government Says Are Puny and Insignificant Because They Have Only Tens of Millions of Speakers Apiece,” er, “Speak Mandarin” (Ji?ng Huáy? Yùndòng / ?????). The city-state has been marking the the 30th anniversary of this with some speeches, such as one a couple of weeks ago by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (L? Gu?ngyào), now “minister mentor.”

Lee described the situation:

Thirty years ago I launched the Speak Mandarin campaign. [Singaporean] Chinese students learned Mandarin at school. Unfortunately, they used to speak dialects amongst themselves, at home, and with their friends — a variety of dialects.

Here, “dialects” is of course the standard misnomer for Sinitic languages other than Mandarin.

Lee said that he himself was setting a bad example during the 1960s and 1970s by doing such highly irresponsible things as giving speeches in the native language of the majority of Singapore’s citizens. So he stopped all that. And he had the government shut down almost all broadcasts in Hokkien (Hoklo) and other such languages.

Lee said that although he understands “the strong emotional ties to one’s mother tongue … the trend is clear. In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue.”

Actually, no, that’s not clear at all. Rather, a very different trend is apparent. During his speech Lee displayed the graph below, with data taken from surveys conducted by Singapore’s Ministry of Education.

Dominant Home Language of Singaporean Chinese Primary-1 Students (1980 to 2009)
graph showing English in a steady climb from 10% -- all numbers are approximate -- (1980) to 60% (2009); 'Chinese dialects' in steep decline from 1980 (62%) to 1988 (9%) and continuing to decline to only 1% or 2% in 2009; and Mandarin, which begins in 1980 at 28% and quickly tops 60% in 1985, with slower growth until 1988 (69%), after which it enters a steady decline to 39% (2009)

As the primary language of the home for young students, Mandarin has dropped steadily since the late 1980s, while English has risen steadily since 1980, with English surpassing Mandarin in 2004. (Language data for the whole population is more complicated. See, for example, the 2005 General Household Survey.)

Of course the government and Lee recognize this. But they don’t want to fight against English, which is crucial to Singapore’s success. So what Lee is proposing is that parents — both parents — speak Mandarin, not English, to their children.

(I see from my stats that this site gets lots of visitors from Singapore. Can any of you comment on how well you think the public will respond to Lee’s proposal.)

Lee explained in his speech that people have only so many “gigabytes” in their brains to devote to languages.

Though stating that speaking “dialects” in some situations can provide “extra warmth,” he warns that by using such languages: “You are losing important neurons with data which should not be there. And like the computer, when you delete it, it doesn’t really go away. It’s there at the back, and you’ve got to go to the rubbish channel and say ‘destroy.’ And it’s still disturbing your hard disk.”

Thus, those rubbish languages must be destroyed “dialects” must be let go, he said.

On March 8 a linguist at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “Although Singaporeans are still multilingual, 40 years ago, we were even more multilingual. Young children are not speaking some of these languages at all any more…. All it takes is one generation for a language to die.” But even after all these years, with Sinitic languages other than Mandarin fading fast there, this is apparently still no time to be slacking off, as Lee’s principal private secretary, Chee Hong Tat, promptly responded, “It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.”

Part of the reason behind Lee’s call, however, is a basic misunderstanding. Setting aside the matters of educating children in a language not native to them and how many languages most people are capable of speaking effectively, the main difficulty with learning Mandarin is not the language itself (especially for those who speak other Sinitic languages) but Chinese characters as its near-exclusive script.

If Singapore is smart about promoting Mandarin, sooner rather than later it will develop a two-track system, with most students studying how to read and write Mandarin exclusively in Hanyu Pinyin, while those who wish become more specialized can go on to study Chinese characters as well. For this to work, Singapore will need to produce plenty of material to read in Pinyin. (A newspaper, for example, would be a must — and one with real news, not just cute stories for kids.) The city-state certainly has the means and motive for this. But does it have the imagination? If it does, most students could save their precious neurons and gigabytes for other things — perhaps even their families’ traditional native languages.

Lee Kuan Yew speech:

Some Singapore blog posts:

newspaper stories:

letter to the editor:


Singapore to allow electronic Chinese dictionaries in exams

Students in Singapore will be able to use certain government-approved handheld electronic Mandarin dictionaries in national exams beginning in 2007. Some printed dictionaries are already allowed for ‘O’ level mother tongue composition exams and, from next year, will also be permitted in PSLE mother tongue composition exams.

The electronic dictionaries will be allowed in the Chinese language composition part of the PSLE and GCE ‘N’, ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels.

I’ve written to the company that makes one of the approved electronic dictionaries, the Hansvision Handheld Dictionary PX2051, for details but have not received a response. The product costs S$24 (about US$14).

The move to allow the electronic devices is in response to a report issued last year by the Chinese Language Review Committee that recommended their use.

Basically, students are finding Chinese characters just too much trouble, so Singapore, wisely, has changed its approach to teaching Mandarin to focus more on speaking and listening. Now if it would just place more emphasis on Pinyin….

source: Electronic Chinese dictionaries to be allowed in national exams, Channel News Asia, October 25, 2005.

Singapore encourages trilingualism

Singapore Encourages Learning Of A Third Language

SINGAPORE, Aug 27 (Bernama) — Bilingual Singapore is gearing up towards “trilingualism” among its population by encouraging students to learn a third language, apart from English and their own mother tongue, even if it is only for conversational purposes.

“The ability to speak a third language is useful, and will help young Singaporeans of all races operate effectively in the region and beyond,” Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Saturday.

Proficiency in non-native mother-tongue languages would also help nurture increased interaction among the ethnic communities, friendships between students and ties between neighbours, across race and religion, Tharman said at the inaugural Mother Tongue News Writing Competition jointly organised by Innova Junior College and Berita Harian.

“We have to find every way to interest our children in our various races and cultures, give them as many opportunities as possible to interact in school, and give them confidence to talk to people of other races outside the school,” he said….

More than 40 schools, both primary and secondary, and junior colleges, have started to conduct conversational Malay as enrichment classes, with more than 200 other schools having expressed interest in starting similar programmes.

The ministry recently distributed a “Guide to Conversational Malay” to all schools to help them introduce such programmes.

“The Ministry of Education is currently developing a resource booklet for conversational Mandarin to help schools implement the enrichment programme for non-Chinese students,” Tharman said.

English is the medium of instruction in Singapore schools but it is also compulsory for students to take up a mother tongue language — either Chinese, Malay or Tamil.

Singapore to begin new Mandarin curriculum

SINGAPORE : 25 primary schools will introduce the new [Mandarin] Chinese language curriculum from January next year.

The pilot programme will involve all students in Primary 1 and 2.

Anglo-Chinese Junior (ACS) hopes to be among the first to try out the new approach to learning Mandarin where emphasis will be on character recognition and oral skills.

All students will take a core module which makes up about 70% of the curriculum, with bridging modules for weak students and enrichment classes for those with ability and interest.

But the majority will take on, what the Ministry calls, a school-based module.

“Teachers can use part of the enrichment or bridging modules provided. They can also design their own school-based materials. This helps bring about better customization,” said Yue Lip Sin, Deputy Director of the Education Ministry.

Schools can break up the classes, so students can attend a separate [Mandarin] Chinese class with those of the same abilities through the year.

They can also teach the core curriculum as per normal and put certain students in the add-on modules for certain lessons each week.

Primary 1 students will be banded by their teachers only after they have finished learning “Hanyu Pinyin”.

Teachers at ACS expect about 20% to take up the bridging module and 10% for the enrichment class.

They add that the concept of ability banding is not new to them.

“When we group the pupils of similar abilities together, the teachers are able to design lessons that cater to their needs. They will be able to spark their interest in the learning of [Mandarin] Chinese,” said Lye Choon Hwan, Head of the Mother Tongue Department at ACS

Students will be assessed based on the core syllabus and schools have the autonomy to decide on the methods of assessment.

But the ministry emphasized that what is more important is helping students develop a love for the language, without making it unchallenging.

The ministry will announce the schools in the pilot scheme later this year and implement the new curriculum in all primary schools by 2007.

source: Channel News Asia

Transit signs, maps going multilingual in Singapore

If anyone in Singapore notices this, I’d love to receive some photos of this new signage.

SINGAPORE (dpa) – Signs and maps at subway stations are going multilingual in Singapore to help the elderly and others who might not read English, transport officials said Monday.

Work is expected to be completed by the end of this year on signboards and maps in Chinese and Tamil, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Station names in Malay are similar to English ones. “We are progressively changing the signs at all the stations,” The Straits Times quoted an LTA spokesman as saying.

The cost is S$600,000 Singapore dollars (US$368,000).

Twenty-five per cent of the 8,000 key signs at mass transit stations have been made bilingual so far.

Previously, only a handful of stations in the city had signs in more than one language.

Commuters who could not read English complained that they found it difficult to navigate the train system because the underground lines have no landmarks for orientation.

Singapore’s predominantly Chinese population includes 15 per cent Malays and 6 per cent Indians.