Excuse me, are you Singaporean? By Melissa Sim The Straits Times Tuesday, Apr 02, 2013 Mixed marriages have become more common in Singapore. In 2011, one in five marriages (19.8 per cent) was an inter-ethnic union, up from one in eight (12.6 per cent) in 2001. But the offspring of these couples still get asked awkward questions about their identity. Five Singaporeans with mixed heritage tell what it is like to grow up and fit in here. The Gonzales': Dad Manuel, 48, mum Meow Cheng, 42, Isabel, five, and Alfonso, three. Five-year-old picks up Singlish But ask five-year-old Isabel Gonzales which she likes most - Chinese, English or Spanish - and she replies confidently: "Chinese." Her mother, Ms Ong Meow Cheng, 42, who is self-employed distributing health and beauty products, is not surprised. "She will take a Chinese story book from the shelf and ask me to read it," says Ms Ong, who is Singaporean. Ms Ong and her husband, Mr Manuel Gonzales, 48, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Peru in Singapore, met in 1996 while they were both working in Canberra, Australia. She was then a stenographer at the Singapore High Commission in the city. They got married in 2007, had both their children in Peru and moved to Singapore in 2011. The couple say their children, Isabel and Alfonso, three, had no problems fitting in from the get-go. In Singapore, because everyone spoke English, Isabel did not have a problem communicating with her school mates. Even Chinese has not been an issue. Her mother made it a point to read Chinese books to her when they lived in Peru and would look for Chinese programmes on cable television for her to watch. When Isabel came to Singapore, her Chinese language teacher said she was at first shy and looked away when questions were asked. But now, she raises her hand and speaks in Mandarin like the other children. Ms Ong says she is relieved: "I was scared she would come back and say she didn't like Chinese." Language is an important way for Ms Ong and Mr Gonzales to share their culture with their children. Says Mr Gonzales: "We want them to have good exposure to Singapore culture. But we also want them to know that part of their identity is Peruvian. One way of doing that is teaching the language." The diligent father reads Spanish story books to his children twice a week and teaches them Spanish words using flash cards. But Isabel, who has not been back to Peru since 2011, has also picked up a fourth language - Singlish - from her friends. "We tried to teach her proper English, but what was taught was undone in school," says Ms Ong, shaking her head. But the parents do not seem to mind too much that their daughter's English has taken a local turn. "I'm fine with it as long as she is able to switch to speaking proper English when the situation arises," adds Ms Ong. When asked what her favourite food is, Isabel answers in her Singaporean accent: "Spaghetti with tomato sauce, croissant, noodles." Then, with a smile, she adds: "Roti prata."