新加坡多元魅力

跨海交流全面啟動
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2019 / 6月

文‧陳群芳 圖‧林格立


經濟繁榮與國際化都市,是許多人對新加坡的印象。在這裡,華人、馬來人、印度人以及各國人和諧並存,文化的包容形塑新加坡另一種魅力。跟著《光華》的腳步,一起探訪充滿南洋風情的新加坡,以及兩國間頻繁密切的交流吧!

 


 

飛越三千多公里、四個半小時的航程,終於抵達新加坡樟宜國際機場。氣派整齊的挑高大廳、隨處可見的英文標示,眼底耳裡各種語言紛呈,象徵我們來到了一個華人佔多數,卻與台灣截然不同的國家。

蘊含多元文化的國度

新加坡居民總數約400萬,華人佔75%、馬來人13%、印度人9%;另外還有164萬來自各國的非居民人口。在台灣,偶而看到外國面孔,我們會感到驚訝,不自覺地將他們當作異鄉人;但在新加坡街上,與不同族群擦身而過,卻是如此自然。

採訪時農曆元宵剛過,新加坡的中國城──牛車水到處掛滿燈籠,過節氣氛濃厚。街上林立的中藥行、粥品店、潮州肉骨茶、台灣品牌肉乾店,還有宗祠、廟宇錯落在城區,招牌也以中文為主,充滿親切感。

但搭捷運只需3站,就能來到氛圍完全不同的小印度區。色彩繽紛的建築是一大特色,信奉印度教的維拉瑪卡里雅曼興都廟,吸引遊客來此一睹印度廟的風采。位於捷運站旁的竹腳中心,一樓販售生鮮蔬果,還有瀰漫濃郁香料味道的印度美食,二樓則匯聚了印度沙麗的服飾店。

離開小印度區繼續往東走,有著金黃色圓頂的蘇丹回教堂出現在眼前,這是與牛車水、小印度並稱新加坡三大歷史區的阿拉伯區,附近許多賣香水的紀念品店,空氣裡飄著濃濃中東氣息。在新加坡,轉個身就像進入另一個國度,來自各地的種族、移民在此生根,異國面孔是日常,任何人都能融入風景裡。

以英語為主的雙語教育

走在新加坡街頭,即使兩個華人碰面,彼此仍以英語交談。此現象源自新加坡的雙語教育政策。英語、華語、馬來語、淡米爾語為新加坡官方的4種語言,所謂的雙語教育是以英語為主,另依每位學生的族裔修讀母語,華人學華語、馬來人學馬來語、印度人學淡米爾語。

新加坡在1965年獨立,1966年便開始實施雙語政策。當時的雙語,雖然英語是必備,但可以自由選擇授課語言,有以華語授課的華校,也有馬來語授課的學校。隨著政策變化,1979年全面實施以英語為主的雙語教育,大部分的學校都跟著轉型,改以英語為主要授課語言。讓學生從小生活在英語為主的環境裡,英語的使用是基本,更得以和不同族群的人溝通。

南洋理工大學國立教育學院亞洲語言文化學部副教授陳志銳,即是怡然優遊雙語的一例。大學時來台就讀師大國文系,研究所回到新加坡國立大學修習英國文學。陳志銳表示,「語文能打開一扇窗,讓你對其他文化感到好奇。」從小就閱讀中英文書籍,讓他得以在兩個文學的世界遊走。就像他隨身攜帶鋼筆和自來水毛筆,一支寫英文、一支寫華文,感受東西方文化在日常中流轉。

有人肯定新加坡政府的雙語政策,但也有母語式微的隱憂。為此星國政府透過各式的委員會、藝術理事會來推動各母語的文化,每年辦理各族裔的藝術節,年度作家節也都有英文、華文、馬來文、淡米爾文4線的活動,努力緩和英語主流教育所帶來的消長。

在新加坡輻射東南亞市場

新加坡做為一個國際化都市,英語的普及是很大的優勢。生活中的各種需求,如交通、飲食、教育、醫療等,都能以英語溝通。再加上法規清楚透明、治安好、衛生環境佳,不僅連續14年被全球人力資源諮詢公司ECA International評比為最適宜亞洲外派人員居住的城市,也吸引許多跨國企業前來設置據點。

當各國紛紛選擇與新加坡做生意時,台灣也不例外。台灣自2013年與新加坡簽訂貿易協定,兩國間的經貿往來更加頻繁。駐新加坡台北代表處代表梁國新表示,新加坡是台灣第6大貿易夥伴、台灣則是新加坡第5大貿易夥伴。雙邊每年貿易額大約260億美元,甚至超過了新加坡與其鄰近國家印尼的貿易額。

隨著時代變遷,台灣前來新加坡發展的產業,從1970年代的傳統產業、製造業,1990年代電子業,如今新創、金融、服務業也都將觸角拓展至新加坡。一般認為,商場上只有零和的競爭,好像到國外發展就是要去瓜分當地市場;但事實上,是合作拓展第三世界的市場。

梁國新進一步指出,新加坡的族群優勢,讓他們天生就善於和東協其他國家往來,如何將新加坡作為進入東協的根據地,就顯得重要。例如台灣的銀行到新加坡開設分行,參與當地銀行對印尼的大型放貸,相對地減少台灣自行前往印尼放貸的風險與挑戰,透過與新加坡銀行合作反倒能達成雙贏。在新加坡可以輻射東南亞市場,也是它吸引各國企業在此設置區域總部的最大原因。

留台情誼發酵

除了經貿往來,兩國的緣分,因為曾留學台灣的新加坡人,而散布的更廣。

一直以來台灣的書籍、影視作品、藝術表演等都有銷往星馬,台灣作家也常受邀演講,新加坡人對台灣文化接受度很高。1980年代,新加坡政府為培育華文師資,而將優秀青年送到台灣留學。當這些留學生帶著台灣的創作風氣、文學薰陶回到新加坡,「上課時隨性吟起徐志摩的詩、以席慕蓉的作品形容隔壁同學是500年前修來的緣分……」陳志銳回憶留學台大中文系的中學老師李白楊,至今仍對老師獨特而浪漫的華語課印象深刻。李白楊啟發了陳志銳對華語文學的興趣,也讓他對台灣產生嚮往。

陳志銳表示,許多新加坡作家如柯思仁、殷宋瑋、蔡深江等,都曾到台灣求學,他們將留台經驗化為創作靈感,在字裡行間書寫對台北的情感。大一的書法課、寢室裡寫詩歌、談義理,校園裡人文氛圍濃厚,「如今我創作、寫書法、刻印章,都是那時埋下的種子。」陳志銳說。

近年陳志銳重拾毛筆書寫各種字體,還讓南洋理工大學停辦多年的書法課復活。原本以為不提筆的年代,年輕人不會對書法感興趣,沒想到學生搶著修。課堂上陳志銳以雙語向各族裔的學生指導書法的技巧,鼓勵學生融入創意。一學期的課程後舉辦了師生展,作品精彩,讓人不敢相信出自初學者之手,亦是中華文化在此開枝散葉的最佳證明。

台人為兩國友好搭橋

來自台灣、在新加坡樟宜機場遊客服務中心工作的Evita,發現新加坡人對台灣的理解超乎想像,例如台灣的消息常登上新加坡報紙、新加坡年輕人對台灣歷屆總統如數家珍等,彷彿整個國家都在關注台灣,但台灣民眾對新加坡的認識卻很少。於是她以「星馬和牛Evita」為名,製作了一系列的YouTube影片。

Evita以生活經驗帶著粉絲用台語逛新加坡菜市場、分享便利商店的小吃、兩國過年習俗的不同;或是設計有趣的題目街訪路人,例如讓新加坡大學生挑戰中文的多義字、票選星國人最愛的台灣綜藝節目;抑或分享自己在新加坡的工作、租房經驗等。生動活潑的介紹方式,吸引了兩地粉絲的注意。

新加坡薪水高、國際化,讓許多台灣人嚮往,常有網友向Evita諮詢新加坡工作的建議。曾在澳洲留學的她分析,新加坡都市步調快,一般都要求員工積極、一個月就對工作上手,與澳洲的慢節奏截然不同;許多人看上新加坡的高收入,抱著打工度假、姑且一試的心態前來,很容易就會想放棄。到新加坡工作都必須和雇主簽約,1~3年不等。Evita建議一定要想清楚工作目標,並上新加坡求職網站查詢薪資行情,以免遇到鑽漏洞的公司。

Evita表示,遊客服務中心的工作有點像機場的公關,接待貴賓、為旅客作機場導覽,每個國家有各自的文化,公司聘請各國籍的員工,提供最適切的服務。在新加坡每天都會遇到來自不同文化、語言、背景的人,除了增加英語溝通能力,更打開國際視野。

新加坡的華人文化、食物多樣、衛生、安全等面向,總讓台灣人感到熟悉。台灣與新加坡有點相像卻又各有精采的國家,也難怪梁國新會說新加坡是家以外最像家的地方(The home away from home.)。

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近期文章

EN

City of Contrasts

Singapore's Diverse Charms

Chen Chun-fang /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Jonathan

The image that many people have of Singapore is of an economically prosperous international city. More charms can be found in its ethnically diverse population of Chinese, Malays and Indians, as well as its non-citizens of many nations, who work together in an atmosphere of cultural tolerance. Come with Taiwan Panorama as we explore Singapore and its close bonds and exchanges with Taiwan!


After a four-and-a-half-hour flight of more than 3000 kilometers, we finally reach Singa­pore’s ­Changi Airport. Its high-ceilinged, orderly and expansive arrival halls feature English signage everywhere, and people are speaking a great variety of different tongues. The scene is a fitting demonstration that although we’ve come to another nation in which Han Chinese are in the majority, it is nonetheless a place that is quite different from Taiwan.

Cultural diversity

Singapore’s population includes 4 million citizens, with ethnic Chinese comprising 75%, Malays 13%, and Indians 9%. There are also 1.64 million non-citizens who hail from many nations. In Taiwan, one only occasion­ally sees foreign features and thus one may be somewhat surprised upon encountering them. But in Singapore it’s an utterly unremarkable occurrence.

The city’s Chinatown is lined with Chinese apo­thec­aries, restaurants selling bak kut the (pork ribs simmered in a spicy broth), shrines, and temples. With the Chinese signs, the streets here seem altogether familiar to someone from Taiwan.

But Little India, with its colorful buildings, lies just three MRT stops away. There the Hindu Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple attracts many visitors.

Walking south from Little India, one comes to the Sultan Mosque with its golden dome. Nearby are many souvenir stores selling perfumes, where the air-­conditioned air has a heavy Middle-Eastern scent to it. In Singa­pore, turning a corner can seem like entering an entirely new country.

Bilingual education puts English first

English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil: Those are Singapore’s four official languages. So-called bilingual education is English-focused, with students adding the language of their ethnic group as their other language. Ethnic Chinese study Chinese, Malays Malay, and Indians Tamil.

Singapore declared its independence in 1965, and its bilingual language policy was launched in 1966. Although studying English was mandatory back then, you could pick the language of instruction for your other courses: Chinese schools instructed in Chinese and Malay schools in Malay. In 1979, the system was completely changed so that English became the language of instruction for everyone. With all Singaporeans using English from a young age, communication between ethnic groups has grown easier.

Tan Chee Lay, an associate professor of Asian languages and cultures at Nan­yang Technological University’s National Institute of Education, is an example of someone who is completely at ease in two languages. For university, he came to Taiwan and majored in Chinese, and for graduate school he returned to Singapore and studied English literature. “Language is a window through which you can develop your curiosity toward other cultures,” he explains. Reading Chinese and English from a young age has allowed him to float between both literatures.

There are many who support the government’s bi­lingual education policy, but there are also concerns about its effects on mother tongues. Singapore’s government has organized all manner of committees and arts councils to promote mother-language cultures, and it holds arts festivals for each of the ethnic groups. During the annual Singapore Writers Festival, there are always four separate programs of activities for English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. All these efforts are attempts to reduce the negative impacts of a mainstream education system with English as the language of instruction.

A base for the Southeast-Asian market

In Singapore, basic needs of life, such as transportation and medicine, can all be met using English. What’s more, there are clear laws, a low crime rate, cleanliness and good sanitation—all features that have attracted many multinational companies to set up operations.

In 2013 Taiwan signed a trade agreement with Singa­pore, and economic and trade ties have grown tighter ever since. The trade between the two nations now stands at about US$26 billion per year, surpassing even the trade between Singa­pore and its immediate neighbor Indonesia.

Industries from Taiwan that came to Singa­pore in previous decades included traditional industries, manu­factur­ing and electronics. More recently, financial and service industry firms from Taiwan have set up branches in Singapore. 

Francis ­Liang, who is the representative at the Tai­pei Representative Office in Singa­pore, takes this a step farther to say that Singa­pore’s ethnic diversity gives the city natural advantages in building bridges to other ASEAN nations. That has made it attractive to Taiwanese firms, which use the city as a base from which to serve the whole ASEAN market. For instance, Taiwan’s banks have established branch offices in Singapore, which engage in large-scale lending to Indonesia. That has reduced the challenges and risks that Taiwan banks encountered when lending directly to Indonesia. The ability to radiate out from Singapore into the ASEAN market is one of the main reasons that Singapore has attracted so many companies to set up their Asian headquarters there.

Study and friendship

Taiwan’s books, television and art have always found a market in Singapore and Malaysia, and Singaporeans are highly receptive to Taiwan’s culture. To cultivate Chinese language teachers, the Singaporean government back in the 1980s sent top students to study in Taiwan. Those students brought back literary training informed by Taiwan’s creative atmosphere. “In class, my teacher would recite Xu ­Zhimo’s poems, or quote Xi Mu­rong to say that my meeting the classmate sitting next to me was fated by something that happened 500 years ago....” Tan Chee Lay thus describes his impression of his junior-­high-school Chinese teacher Li Bai­yang, who had studied at National Taiwan University. Li ignited Tan’s interest in Chinese literature, and implanted in Tan a sense of longing for Taiwan.

Tan Chee Lay explains that Singaporean writers such as Quah Sy Ren, Yin Song Wei (pen name of Lim Song Hwee) and Chua Chim Kang all studied in Taiwan. They drew creative inspiration from their experiences of studying there, and their affection for Tai­pei is apparent in their writing.

In recent years Tan has rekindled his interest in calli­graphy, getting Nan­yang Technological University to reopen classes in the subject, which had not been offered for several years. After those semester-long courses, there are exhibitions of the students’ works. It is hard to believe their outstanding calligraphies are the works of beginners. There is no better proof of how Chinese culture is flourishing in Singapore.

Building bridges of friendship

Evita, who hails from Taiwan and works at the informa­tion desk at ­Singa­pore’s Changi International Airport, has discovered that Singaporeans have a remark­able under­standing of Taiwan. For instance, news about Taiwan is frequently reported in Singa­porean newspapers, and young people are very knowledge­able about Taiwan’s presidents. It really seems as if the entire country cares about Taiwan. Yet people in Taiwan have very little understanding of Singa­pore. In response, she has launched a YouTube channel.

Speaking in Taiwanese, Evita leads her fans on tours through Singaporean produce markets or delves into differences between the two nations’ customs. In other ­videos she conducts street interviews, quizzing Singa­porean college students on the multiple meanings of Chinese words, or asking them to vote for their favorite Taiwanese variety show. In still other videos she shares her experiences of working or renting a place in Singapore. Her lively manner has attracted many fans.

With its high salaries and cosmopolitanism, Singa­pore interests many Taiwanese, and many of Evita’s Inter­net fans ask her advice about coming to Singa­pore to work. Evita, who studied in Australia, notes that in this respect Singa­pore is different from easygoing Australia. Those thinking they can come and find a job for a working holiday often end up discouraged. Anyone coming to work in Singapore needs to have signed a contract with their employer. Evita advises these inquirers to clearly think about their employment goals and peruse Singa­porean employment websites to gain an understanding of prevailing salaries. Otherwise com­panies can use loopholes to exploit foreign workers.

Evita explains that her work at the airport’s traveler information center is a bit like doing public relations for the airport: She greets visitors and guides them around the airport. Every day in Singapore she meets people with different cultures, languages and backgrounds. Apart from strengthening her English, it has given her a broader, more international perspective.

The culture of Singapore’s ethnic Chinese, as well as the nation’s culinary diversity, cleanliness and safety, all make people from Taiwan feel at home. Taiwan and Singapore are similar in many ways, but each also has its own outstanding features. It’s no wonder that Francis ­Liang describes Singa­pore as a “home away from home.”

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