Garfieldhug's Blog

This & That Including What Ails

My Fascination With The English Language

on November 15, 2017

My fascination with the English language began for me from a very young age, as my parents spoke to me in English since birth.

Singapore or I fondly call lil red dot, was once a British Crown Colony. We achieved our Independence on August 9, 1965.

Our lil red dot was originally a collection of migrants from China, neighboring Malay states, India, Portuguese etc. Technically, our national language is Bahasa Melayu and this explains why our National Anthem is in Malay and still sung in Malay.

With our founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew being an accomplished lawyer from Cambridge, he had the foresight to know that English is the language that we must be all educated in – as if like our first language.

With PM Lee Kuan Yew, he took us from a 3rd world nation to a first world nation status and along the way, he recognized the emerging power of China and the business opportunities within.

This then made him spearhead all to learn and speak Mandarin. The migrant population from all over China spoke in different dialects such as Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka or Hai Lam. We as citizens, benefitted from his wisdom in economic and social policies.

To ensure that we all spoke in unison and in one understandable language, the Speak Mandarin Campaign was launched in the 1970s and today, everyone speaks Mandarin as schoolers take it as their second language option alongside Bahasa Melayu and Tamil. Our second languages or mother tongues are now formal languages and not dialects. Seniors speak it naturally without lapsing into their dialect from the onset.

Malays, Chinese, Indians and others are all learning Mandarin. I know of a Turkish man who speaks fluent Mandarin.

Expatriate families want to enrol their children in our local school system as it is that good!

When Mr Lee Kuan Yew first banned all dialect broadcasts on air and radio in dialects, people howled “blue murder” as they lost their comfort in a dialect they used daily. On hindsight, if he was not adamant about it, today, our progress would not be what it is today. He did good although his style is always with a heavy hand, like a father wanting good for us, his children.

These same people who grumbled and were angered with him queued for more than 18 hours to file past his cortege when he lay in state at Parliament House when he passed away in 2015, to pay their last respects. Many cried as they knew and understood now, what his intentions were back then. We did not know, but he did!

As a child, I read voraciously and was always out to read more. My greatest “English” teacher was Dame Enid Blyton and of course “Dicky” – the dictionary. I read all of Dame Enid’s tales, including Famous Five or Secret 7 series. I remember she shared in her writings, the British flowers mentioned and also the fairies, elves and imps!

I learnt that the pen is mightier than the sword and that a written piece of work can be done in different tones when read by reader.

For example, when it is a speech, a message or a foreword for a journal or even a book or if it is to be written lightheartedly – I recognized the different uses of syntax and how to deliver succinct write ups or even to be mischievous, deliver words with no meanings! I call this verbosity at its best to numb the morons who know nothing about English but just needs to be impressed.

Whilst I also learnt dialects (hard not to as work travels take me to different parts of China and Hong Kong/Macau), I never forgot the importance of a proper language.

The downside to learning a decent language is that the cultural aspect of migrant dialects is lost by the second generation. Today, children do not know how to speak dialects and it is a shame as I find this very useful when speaking in “code” to communicate to the other party during a meeting so that others in the room do not understand. Or when travelling in different English speaking countries, I have a comfortable language to comment to the other companion when bargaining for goods!

Yes, I love the English language and having studied in USA, I was delighted when I topped my Test of English as A Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores – same percentile or even better than native speakers.

I am proud to share that our lil red dot syllabi for math, history and science is also widely accepted by countries such as USA and UK.

And, my first draft is usually my last draft unless, I am factually joining excerpts of text messages LOL!

41 responses to “My Fascination With The English Language

  1. Kris says:

    I loved this! I can’t imagine anyone over here making others learn a common language–mutiny would happen! Our schools take pride in making sure other languages are taught. (5 year olds will be in a class with a teacher who speaks ‘their’ language and those kids are taught in that language til they leave school, English is a second language.)
    I love the English language! It is so crazy and weird! I enjoy reading your blog, you obviously have a good handle on how to communicate with others. That, my dear, is a rare gift!

    • Garfield Hug says:

      Aawww thanks Kris. Singapore is unique as we trust our government and see the logic. But then USA is a huge country and it would be tough to impose anything in light of “democracy” and free speech. Look at your gun laws. Here it is outlawed and it is harder to go on a “shooting” spree here. It is different as we are relatively “young” as a country compared to USA’s independence that spans more than a century.☺

  2. samanthamurdochblog says:

    Good morning! A great post, definitely deserves tea and biscuits! 😺💕🍵🍵🍪🍪💕😺 I do think a common language helps to unify a country, although apparently English and Mandarin are two of the hardest to learn…I can swear in Mandarin! 😸

  3. scifihammy says:

    Fantastic! 🙂
    That explains why your English is so good, as you learnt as a child. I think it is a great idea to teach young children more than one language, so they can become fluent in it.
    Unfortunately in the UK you were only taught in English until High School, when you were offered other languages such as French, at the age of 11. You will never become as proficient in a second language by then.
    Also, I loved Enid Blyton’s stories which I read avidly as a kid 🙂 Small world! 😀

  4. Amy says:

    That is impressive, Garfield! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  5. I am sure when I learned English… I was already watching English shows and reading English books since when I was 3 (my earliest memory).

    Hmm, I think that I started to learn English seriously during my second grade to understand what the heck Shakespeare was talking about.

    • Garfield Hug says:

      Lol! Shakespeare is a whole new form of English….😄

      • I even asked my second grade English teacher to give me some suggested introductory references about Shakespeare and his wotks. She just mockingly told me to read something like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland first. I answered that I had already finished it a few years ago and had also read The Annotated Alice, a comprehensive discourse about Carroll’s work. Then, I also told her that I was currently reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina so I didn’t have the time to reread Alice…

        Now, that I think of it, people started to call me a smartass suring that time… 🙂

  6. winfred says:

    I love talking to my partners in local dialect too where nobody else can understand!!!
    We are also losing though to the younger kids.. almost everyone in Kenya speaks Swahili.. now most kids speak Swahili and English and have lost the local dialects

  7. I always knew Singapore had multiple official languages, but I never realized how that came to be – it’s a fascinating story. Someday, I’ll get to visit your lil red dot – it looks like an amazing place.

  8. jackcollier7 says:

    To be born with English as your first language is to have won first prize in the game of life. ❤ ❤

    • Garfield Hug says:

      Good saying….the world functions on English save for Japan, N & S Korea or even China and Paris where their own languages are foremost. HK used to be Cantonese but these days as part of China they are learning Mandarin. Though they may learn the English Language as part of school curriculum they do not speak it. Good observation Jack 😊

  9. juliehcares says:

    I’m glad you speak English! I don’t speak anything else unfortunately, not for lack of trying!

  10. Neethu says:

    Mandarin sounds interesting…😍

  11. Talking with people who do not english at all it is just a stupid way that people who know english like show off between. It is useless. Great topic🙂

  12. Mean Teacher says:

    You’ve got a fascinating upbringing. I wish all native speakers had the same fascination with English that you do.

    • Garfield Hug says:

      Aww thank you Teacher…I don’t think “Mean Teacher” is right for you haha! Usually the “mean” or “tough” ones are the teachers that have our interests at heart. Thank you for reading and weighing in😃

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