Thursday, September 07, 2006

Proud of our language

I was just talking to my Hong Kong friend online just now and she was wondering aloud to me how come sometimes Singaporeans speak a language that is so similar to english but yet that 'english' is encoded with wierd language that seems to outcast anyone who is not Singaporean. After hearing her muse, I laughed out loud. Another victim of Singlish.

I realized that in Singapore, we won't realize this. But overseas, where Singaporeans are the minority and our interaction with foreign students are of a daily occurance, our Singlish seems to be like a lightstick glowing in the dark. Only Singaporeans speak this brand of English that nobody apart from fellow countrymen can understand. It's a perplexing and tongue twisting experience for the foreigners to actually understand what the bunch of Singaporeans are talking about.

And this is what identifies us Singaporeans from everyone else. Yes, we are of chinese descent and so are many from China, HK, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Cocky Australians just generalize the whole lot of us yellow skin people as Asians. (Anyway, we do the same in Singapore too, we classify all the white skin people as ang moh and pass stupid remarks about them) But what tears us apart from all the chinese descent people are the fact that we can speak Singlish.

You walk pass a bunch of Chinese people and you hear 'lah','lor' and 'walaueh' and you can bet your last dollar that these people are from Singapore. It's that easy to spot Singaporeans here. We are born and bred in Singapore and although we can switch between good English and Singlish, it is the Singlish that makes us stand out from the crowd.

That is why I disapprove of the recent call by many educated Singaporeans back home in Singapore to scrap our very essence of identity- Singlish. Of course back at home when we witness bouts of Singlish we are embarassed because there is no need for identification and we often class these Singlish speaking people as lowly educated or embarrassing the image of Singapore. But when it comes to overseas, Singlish works like gem.

Singlish is our identification. It is our culture. We should be proud of it because that is the language that proudly makes us Singaporean. Just like in Britain, there is Cockney and Welsh and in China there is a Shanghai dialect, Singapore has Singlish. And trust us to be able to switch comfortably between a language the world understands and the one that only Singaporeans understand.

Its the language that I am proud of here. People like my friend from Hong Kong find it mind-boggling that we can actually understand a mixture of English, Mandarin, Hokkien and Malay. But we can. And that is why we can lift our heads up high. Trust Singapore's innovativeness.

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