EL Kevin Martens Wong

Mr Kevin Martens Wong

I graduated with First Class Honours in English Language from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in July 2017, also receiving the 2017 Lee Hsien Loong Award for Outstanding All-Round Achievement, the 2017 NUS Minerva Prize as the best graduating student in my course, the 2017 NUS Student Leadership Award, and the 2017 Henry David Hochstadt Eurasian Community Fund Distinction Award. Prior to graduation I was featured on the Dean’s List for every semester of my candidature, and on the Dean’s Scholars List in my final four semesters.

My commitment to both my discipline and my teaching has long extended beyond my hours in the classroom. Beyond my prior teaching experience in four secondary schools across Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic), Express and Integrated Programme classes, I serve as the founder and director of Kodrah Kristang, the national volunteer non-profit grassroots movement to revitalise my critically endangered Portuguese-Eurasian heritage language, Kristang — a position I have held since March 2016. Toward preserving Kristang in Singapore for future generations, I independently developed the first ever structured Kristang curriculum and syllabi for adult learners alongside a 160-hour series of volunteer-run Kristang modules open to the public, the country’s first Kristang Language Festival, the first ever Kristang board game and online dictionary, and a thirty-year revitalisation plan for the language in Singapore. I continue to teach Kristang outside of school hours as a volunteer People’s Association (PA) Trainer at community centres island-wide. It has been my honour to have my work recognised by the BBC, Agence France-Presse, Channel NewsAsia, and The Straits Times among other media outlets, as well as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Halimah Yacob, the latter of whom presented me with the President of Singapore’s Volunteer and Philanthropy Award (Individual – Youth) in November 2017 for my work in preserving Singapore’s intangible cultural heritage and linguistic diversity. I continue to conduct research into Kristang as an independent scholar, focusing on the language’s little-known 200-year-history on our island, and am the first Singaporean to sit on the CoLang Advisory Circle, an international committee advising a biennial language institute dedicated to language documentation and revitalisation around the world. Meanwhile, never one to neglect the affective side of language, I am also a writer focusing on speculative fiction set in Singapore and the wider Southeast Asian region. My first novel, Altered Straits, was longlisted for the inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2015 and published in February 2017, and I was a featured writer at the 2017 edition of the Singapore Writers Festival. I continue to conduct talks and workshops under Sing Lit Station’s Book A Writer and the National Library’s Writing the City programmes in my personal capacity.

I recognise that my love for language stems from my formative experiences as part of the pioneering cohort of H2 English Language and Linguistics students at Catholic Junior College in 2009-2010. To me, taking ELL was a daring leap into an unknown future, and the exhilarating, deeply fulfilling future that has since emerged me has encouraged me to always dare to seek out the novel, the unknown, and the unfamiliar in ways that are still grounded in my own personal convictions and in an awareness of the people, nation and world around me. Through my own example, therefore, I believe very much in encouraging my own students, now arriving at the critical juncture where I once stood – to pursue not simply the pinnacle of academic excellence, but that other shining peak of internal emotional congruence and personal coherence aligned perfectly with the contexts and communities around them: that they might live out and pursue the dreams that do not simply ignite their own personal convictions, but encourage those around them to do the same. Through their energy, commitment and perseverance, as well as mine, I hope that perhaps this strange, beautiful world that we all live in might just be that much better for all our efforts.