Singlish and Standard English

Hello to all reading this blog!

Travel broadens our mind and enriches knowledge – and these are not mere words. The more I travel – be it studies at a Finnish University, practical training in Spain, or a summer vacation– the more and more truth I am finding in the words. These words become even more true to life now that I am in Singapore exploring the so unfamiliar Asia. As I already said in one of the previous blog articles, life in Singapore is very rich in events, and some of them are really eye-opening. For this I would like to share the experience from them with you. Some of the blog articles would be, therefore, devoted to those new experiences.

In this particular blog I would like to tell you about one of the events I had a luck to attend. It was a part of my Effective Oral Communication module here at Nanyang Polytechnic. Teacher for the module had told before that there was something interesting coming our way, and it truly was so. It was an event called “Communicate”, consisting of several lectures on different topics. We were to attend one of them. I went for a lecture called “Singlish and Standard English”.

To me, the lecture on Singlish and Standard English was, simply speaking, an eye-opener, an enlightenment. Yes, a second enlightenment in a row – those who read my blog on “Islamic Wealth Management” will understand.  I very much expected the lecture to be an analysis of Singlish – not introductive, but an in-depth one. Naturally, I could not expect language basics there, as the event was mainly to be attended by Singaporeans. Ultimately, it turned out to be absolutely different from what I expected.

Honestly speaking, before the seminar I had a firm conviction – a flaw of my superficial analysis and a hastily drawn conclusion - that only two variations of English have the lawful right to exist and be recognized as such. They are British and American English.

Throughout the lecture, Dr. Wong Jock Onn was asking audience different questions, which, I later realized, were to lead it to a certain conclusion. This tactic, I think, was the strongest side of the speaker.

What is language about? – Dr. Wong Jock Onn asked.

Whenever we use language, we express meaning, so language is about conveying meaning. Just as much, language is about culture. The meanings and kinds of meanings we express are often shaped by the culture in which the language is used. Thus, many words are culture-specific and have no semantic equivalents in another language or culture. However, some of these meanings are very important to Singapore ‘folk’ culture.

This question was to lead the audience to the following major conclusion: “Asking Singaporean not to use certain Singaporean words is as good as asking them not to express certain Singaporean meanings, values and cultural features.”

I would say that this one sentence brought a sudden and striking realization, and I switched from the denial to understanding. I understand now, that there can be as many variations of English, as there are cultures in the world.

This is all for today, but more is yet to comeJ

Have a nice day and see you soon!


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