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Grandmother Tongue

by Thomas Lim
W!LD RICE
SOTA Studio Theatre, Singapore

"Sometimes, I wish I were a Malay or Indian grandmother", an 84-year-old Teochew woman remarks to her grandson in one of the most poignant lines of this play. "At least their grandchildren can speak the same language as them."
Budding playwright Thomas Lim's Grandmother Tongue, which premiered to rave reviews at last year's Singapore Theatre Festival and garnered a nomination for Best Original Script at the Life! Theatre Awards, is a play about language - the ability of language to connect individuals across different generations. It is also about the disappearance of dialects, a corollary of Singapore's aggressive bilingual policy from the 1980s which has prioritized the use of Mandarin amongst Chinese Singaporeans at the expense of the dialects spoken by their forebears such as Cantonese, Hokkien or, in this case, Teochew.

This heartwarming tale of 28-year-old teacher Boon (Tan Shou Chen) and his oc…

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