Archive for February, 2005

The beauty and threat of Singlish

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Source: Straits Times
Date Published: Feb 16, 2005

I REFER to the letters, ‘Singlish not bad English, it’s another language’ by Mr Nur Shahid Ahmad, and ‘English as it should be spoken’ by Dr Lee Siew Peng (ST, Feb 8).

I agree that Singlish should not be considered ‘bad English’, but it is not a separate language altogether.

Singlish is indeed derived from English, and it has undergone evolution until it now incorporates vocabulary and phrases from other local languages. But I would describe it as a dialect of English, rather than a language of its own.

Singlish may be ‘capable of transmitting ideas and thoughts effectively to other speakers of the same language’ – but only in speech. When it is put down on paper, its efficacy in communication breaks down completely.

Communication between people exists not only through speech, but in writing as well. So Singlish should be considered only as a dialect – an alternative form of an established language.

Speakers of Singlish should not be deemed to be of lower social status any more than should those who speak crisp and ‘correct’ English be seen as pretentious. The way a person chooses to speak should be respected by others.

Singaporeans should not be ashamed of Singlish; even author Melvyn Bragg observes in his book, The Adventure Of English, ‘it (Singlish) fits the tongues and the traditions and the vocal rhythms of the people of Singapore much better than official English’.

Dropping of past tenses (‘you go out already’), omitting the verb ‘to be’ (‘he so stupid’) and including vocabulary from other languages (‘wo men go shopping then go makan’) are characteristics of Singlish and may be appreciated fondly by locals able to differentiate between using it among family and friends, and using English as an official medium of communication in business and when abroad.

Unfortunately, our young may grow up with Singlish as the status quo, which may present problems.

The pressing underlying issue that warrants our attention has been identified by Dr Lee: Many code-switching speakers alternate between languages because they are unable to express themselves fully in a particular tongue.

As Singlish becomes the lingua franca that facilitates communication in multiracial Singapore, it also threatens to rob us of the ability to appreciate the richness of the English language – the Oxford English Dictionary has more than 600,000 entries; if we cannot find the appropriate words to express our meaning, then obviously our mastery of the language is not adequate.

If Singlish speakers are capable of conversing fluently in multiple tongues and mix them up only as a matter of choice, it is to their credit. If people are switching between tongues out of necessity, it becomes an urgent matter to be dealt with.

Tan Wei Min
London, UK

Copyright ? 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement & Condition of Access.

Life is getting scary, Mummy …

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Great tongue-in-cheek article. Got this off mrbrown, who wrote it inToday.

A related article concerning this issue is “What’s wrong with putting family first?‘ by ST.

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Friday • February 18, 2005

At school or varsity, finding a job or getting married, it’s not like it used be

Dear Mummy,

I am feeling very sad.

Today in school, Zhong Guoren — my classmate from China — beat me again, in a maths test. That boy is an unstoppable genius machine.

Last week, he beat me in sports too.

If he were not here, I would have come in first and gotten a gold. But because the Government says we must welcome foreign talents to increase our population and to improve our economy, I got a bronze instead. This sucks.

At first, we laughed at them, because their English was not very good. Their maths and science were good, and their Chinese was excellent (but who cares about Chinese language, right?). But then, their English got better and now, they are kicking our backsides in this subject too.

I think we should get the Government to do something about this.

Why didn’t you have more babies, Mummy? I wouldn’t mind having a brother or a sister to play with. I am an only child, and because you and Daddy are not making enough babies, we have to get people from other countries, people who make it hard for me to be number one in my class.

I think you are very selfish to just have me, Mummy.

I don’t like to lose, Mummy. I am used to being first in my class. And my school was very small too, like Singapore, so it was easy to be first. Now my school is bigger, and I have to fight harder to be first.

Why can’t we just compete with ourselves, among Singaporeans only (okay, and maybe Permanent Residents)?

Why can’t they have a new category for all the tests and CCAs?

We could have a Best Local Maths Student category and a Best Local Sportsman category, then at least, if I don’t win Best Maths Student, I can be Best Local Maths Student and feel better about myself.

Just like my school is ranked one of the Top 20 Value-added Secondary Schools with a Special Assessment Award for Knitting CCA, I also want to be a top student.

Maybe we need to have a new category like “Top 20 Value-added Secondary Schools (Got China Students)”.

This is because our school has smart foreign students and should be ranked separately so that schools without smart foreign students won’t feel so jealous. And, maybe, we should drop Literature as a subject too. I hate Literature, hard to score “A”s.

In fact, we should have streams like EM1 (Local) and EM1 (China and Others). Let the smart China students have their own stream.

I want to go to university when I grow up, especially the National University of Singapore (NUS), because our newspapers say that NUS is even better than Princeton and Cornell in the United States.

But I hear there are many brilliant China students in NUS, too.

I don’t want to be having private tuition until I am 25 years old, just to keep up with my foreign classmates in the Uni. Or else, I will have no time to meet girls and then I will be forced to go to Vietnam and Kelantan to find a wife when I want to start a family.

In fact, I am very upset with foreigners competing with us even in this area.

All the girls I know say that when they finish studying and go to work, they want to marry ang mohs, because Singapore men are unromantic and do not want to know how to make a girl happy. So, the ang mohs are even stealing our women.

I prefer to marry a Singapore girl, of course, but only if she knows how to cook and wash, and peel my prawns for me (like you, Mummy). But nowadays, Singapore girls are so fierce, just because they study, and earn their own money.

Maybe that is why in Chinatown, I saw this big Singapore Rooster, and it was sitting on eggs. I think the Singapore Hen left him to look after the eggs, because she had to work and do all the things an educated Hen does.

I also worry I cannot find a job when I am older. My friend, Ah Hock, tells me his mother feels all these Chinese foreigners are stealing our jobs and our men (and the ang mohs are stealing our women).

That is very scary, Mummy. You told me many China women are in Singapore only to do naughty things, like relieve old men of their Central Provident Fund money.

Once an uncle wrote in the papers that we should catch those foreign women who are tall, have long hair and legs, and wear tight, revealing outfits in black or red and behave coquettishly.

I think we should only accept foreign women who are short, have short hair and legs, and wear loose, covered-up outfits in white or blue, and behave like a man.

Okay, Mummy, I have to go to my Chinese, maths and science tuition classes now. If I don’t go, I won’t be able to beat Guoren.

Your son,

Khia Soo