The Complexities beneath the Perfect Picture:
A Postmodern Perspective of Three Malay-Muslim Bilingual Children's Home Practices

Rita Zamzamah Nazeer

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


I present the cases of three children who were perceived as balanced bilinguals based on their academic performance, and argue that there is a critical need for alternative perspectives in understanding bilingual competence among our children.

This AE presents my interpretations of three Singaporean Malay-Muslim children's home practices, attitudes and beliefs towards being balanced bilinguals. Data for this study came from ten-week-long home observations of the families of these Primary Four children from a class in a neighbourhood school. These students were selected based on their excellent academic performance in both English and Malay for the recent nationally conducted streaming examinations.

From a postmodern philosophical perspective, this study sought to complexify the matter at hand by investigating how home bilingual practices, as well as parental beliefs and attitudes towards bilingual policies, supported these childrenĄ¯s bilingual competence. It also investigated how socio-political, socio-cultural and socio-psychological issues affected their language maintenance and their accommodation to asymmetrical bilingualism. The data collected was then discussed in the light of the wider sociological context of the country.

This study concluded that academic performance of the bilinguals indeed did not adequately capture the dynamism of le quotidien. While few questions got answered, more questions were raised towards the end of the study ¨C questions that called for self-reflexivity of our assumptions, beliefs and practices of bilingualism that often relegate significant social interaction to residual status in the pursuit of academic excellence.