Unless you’ve been living in the World Of Warcraft, competitive sports is going to be synonymous with China, as Olympics fever grips the whole world before the anticipated games begin in Aug 2008.

No better timing, then, for this year’s Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC) 07/08 to latch on to a sports theme and tagline “Are you Game?”, said Mr Kenneth Tan, Chairman of the Promote Mandarin Council.

minister_lim_swee_saySuddenly, local sportsmen are the coolest spokesmen for spouting Mandarin. Mr Tan added that they’re moving away from the “You must learn Mandarin” for your own good approach. Instead, this year’s SMC will take on a softer and yet engaging approach with football raps and a line up of activities that will take place throughout the year.

He was speaking to UrbanWireat the launch of the SMC, now in its 28th year, at an aptly sporty venue, The Cage, on Nov 5.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Lim Swee Say, who graced the event as Guest-of-Honour agreed that the link with sports was “timely”.

The Minister also proved a great sport himself as he regaled and touched about 200 guests with tales of his own struggles in learning English, including having a recurring stomachache to avoid going to English lessons, while he was receiving a primarily Chinese education. His point about how not knowing Mandarin disadvantages us, the way not knowing English did his generation was not lost amid the laughter.the_theatre_practice

And there was lots of that, during the day’s programme, a drama performance by The Theatre Practice, had them perspiring profusely after commentating a make believe soccer match in both English and Chinese. Some of the direct translations were inaccurate albeit funny and it left the audience laughing heartily.

Laughs aside, going by the roster of 12 new partners and 7 new activists, revealed by Mr Tan, it was amply clear that far from losing steam, the Speak Mandarin movement is only gaining momentum.

A case in point is how it is even being supported by non-Chinese. Consider, the owners of The Cage, Sanjay and V. Natarajan, also known as Silver Sanjay and Notorious Nat, who were game enough to take on the challenge of promoting the speaking of Mandarin.

When UrbanWire quizzed them about how they got interested, Sanjay jokingly said “Bu Zhi Dao” (Meaning I don’t know in chinese). Clearly a bunch of friendly jokers, the 2 later explained that the SMC theme this year, Are You Game?, matches them to a tee.

“It is exactly us,” declares Sanjay. He said that when they were approached by the campaign organisers, they were eager to be partners of the series of activities to take place and also use freebies and premiums to encourage the use of the language.

michael_wongIf you’ve been reading UrbanWire’s updates on the Singapore Slingers’ games, you’d know that basketballer Michael Wong plays with a team of mostly non-Chinese. True to his roots, Michael still speaks Chinese daily. Coming from a Chinese-educated family and being educated at Chinese High has given him a strong understanding of who he is.

Michael explained that with his grasp of Chinese and English, he acts as a translator for his team as it “can be difficult to switch to English in terms of understanding” when the coach lashes out instructions in Chinese.

Who’s jumped onto the bandwagon?

Bosses, held and hosted the SMC’s media briefing in support of the campaign.

The Cage, Singapore’s only indoor soccer stadium is not only the venue sponsor for the SMC 07/08 launch but will also host initiatives to bring out the fun of speaking Mandarin for football lovers at The Cage. Watch out for interesting promotions and attractive prizes!

Days Inn China is going beyond sponsoring hotel prizes, as the management will also take up Activist roles to encourage the use of Mandarin, alongside travel industry members, and Jetstar Asia.

Football Association of Singapore and S. League will aid in bringing Mandarin and campaign-related materials to sports audiences.

Jetstar Asia, the Singapore-based budget airline will sponsor tickets for SMC 07/08’s contests. Similar to Days Inn China, the management will also take up Activists roles.

MediaCorp Radio plays an active role by hosting “Talking Books” monthly, a radio programme on 938LIVE which will highlight books related to Chinese culture and language. 938LIVE and Capital 95.8FM will also co-produce an audio book on the origins of English and Chinese Idioms

Singapore Sports Council will provide sports personalities as activists for the campaign.

StarHub’s channels will broadcast campaign-related music.

Stomp will produce and upload video clips on how Mandarin can be used in the sports scene, in relation to The Strait Times’ column on Sports and Mandarin.

The Straits Times’ sports correspondent Marc Lim will highlight his efforts in learning Mandarin in his area of work in a weekly sports column.

World Scientific Publishing will provide attractive rates for Mandarin-related titles.

Young NTUC will reach out to its 135,000 strong membership to raise awareness of the programmes and activities organised for the year-long campaign.

New Activists’ Profiles

-CHOUPIJIANG, the 1st Chinese rap-rock-hip-hop band in Singapore.

Jazreel Tan Shi Hua, Team Singapore Bowler

-Marc Lim, Sports Correspondent with The Straits Times

Michael Wong Soon Yuh, Team Singapore Basketballer

Roy Tay Junhao, Team Singapore Sailor

Shi Jia Yi, Team Singapore Soccer Player

Vanessa Yong Yu Zhen, Team Singapore Shooter

Well now you should be game to speak Mandarin, and you should reward yourself for doing so!

Visit for prizes and promotions such as a free trip to Bangkok.