Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Speaking in tongues

Over the last year or so, the Singapore government has scaled back on the once highly generous policy of giving out various types of employment permits, which has caused the population to swell to unacceptable levels - in terms of exceeding public infrastructure capacity (read crowded trains/buses, skyhigh property prices and crowded public places (eg. Little India)).

The other bugbear is the unease that locals feel when they are served in restaurants and shops. More often than not, they are greeted by foreign-sounding English speakers. Some speak in barely comprehensible English, like yesterday in a hardware store. This local Chinese woman (you know she is local because she spoke in unmistakable Singaporean English) asked about a product she was looking for. The sales assistant was obviously a non-local Chinese, very likely China Chinese, judging by his incomprehensible English and intonation. Needless to say, the woman asked for someone else whom she could understand in English.

Granted this has been happening for some time now. But can we not have some patience in these encounters, I wonder? No matter what one thinks of foregners in our midst, at least you cannot but admire these people who are trying hard to learn the language. In this instance he could have switched to Chinese, as another sales assistant did when he conversed with me. But he bravely attempted in whatever English he knew. Admittedly his English was atrocious, but I could still understand some of what he was saying. Frankly all it would require is just clarify whatever is not clear. My father could not speak a full sentence in English, but he worked for the British for well over twenty years though obviously not in a position that required constant conversation in the language. It is incredible how arrogant we Singaporeans have become. We are bilingual, but never use this ability to bettter understand foreigners in our midst. Sometimes I really wonder what all those years of learning in the rigorous  Singapore education system has produced?

One must admire those who try, and help them become better in that process of learning. Isn't this what we would want our teachers to do for us and our children?


Anonymous said...

In religion,you are expected, if not commanded, to love unconditionally. Be of service, helpful, encouraging, giving, forgiving, eternally optimistic and subservient to authorities etc etc.

Are you mixing religion(blind faith) with politics?

Epilogos Blogger said...

There is no mix-up. True, the title of the post "Speaking in tongues" is more commonly used in a religious context. I just borrowed the phrase as I was writing about locals and foreigners speaking different languages (tongues). Any allusion to politics was un-intended.

Anonymous said...

The fine line between religious positivity and political domination is often indistinguishable. The puppet is never aware of the string pulled when performing.