Garfieldhug's Blog

This & That Including What Ails

My Fascination With The English Language

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!

Advertisements
36 Comments »

Small & Successful….Sharing About My Lil Red dot

Today’s Straits Time, our national newspaper, dated 15 October on page A36 ran a column by Professor Tommy Koh for the Straits Times.

Prof Koh is a remarkably astute yet kind gentleman. 

Despite his status as Ambassador at large with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and Rector of the Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore…he remains humble, genuine and sincere.

Having met him at several occasions, he always has a calming persona with wise words. I enjoy my chats with him immensely as he leaves me thinking and seeking more info my brain.

I remember he used to spearhead The United Nations Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and because of him, I queued to study this course under Prof Hovet in University of Oregon as an undergraduate in Political Science faculty. 

I did not regret the wait for an extra term to graduate as I was happy at the information learnt.

It helped me understand the issues of Pedra Branca better when Prof Tommy Koh and then lawyer, now Minister of Law, Shanmugam, argued successfully against our Neighbor, Malaysia, for rights to this tiny islet which sits a lighthouse.

So today when I saw this article, I immediately downed more coffee and became alert to read it as it was to me about how our little red dot, I fondly call for Singapore, is faring economically.

Below are photos I took of the article and share with credit to Straits Times


Hope you enjoyed learning more of my lil red dot. We are really small on world map but most travelled lot.

😊

Happy weekend folks

7 Comments »

Death Of A Great Criminal Lawyer, Subhas Anandan

I do not know Mr Subhas Anandan personally.

Like any citizen in my little red dot, I read of this man and his kindness in standing as criminal lawyer for pro bono cases or legal cases when no one wants to represent an accused for a criminal offence.

What I knew of him from TV interviews seen is that he has a sharp mind and an exceptionally good lawyering skills, having defended several high profile murder cases as well as he believed in those who were wrongly accused.

I also knew he was of poor health, suffering from diabetes, heart failure and losing a kidney due to cancer.

Working as a criminal lawyer I suppose affects any kind hearted person. I also learnt that he smoked and drank heavily and often wondered if this was how he coped as he prepared mentally for each and every case he defended from the gallows.

Seeing a client or clients hang for the crime of murder may have impacted this kindly soul. There were cases that the facts were evident in that the crime was committed.

Our little island state lost a good lawyer on 6 January 2015. He was a fighter and though he was diagnosed having both heart and kidney failures, he did not give up the fight and returned to the courts recently to defend accused clients.

Mr Subhas succumbed to heart failure whilst undergoing dialysis at Singapore General Hospital at age 67 years old.

May God rest and bless his soul and console his family during this time of grief.

We have truly lost a good lawyer with a kind and good heart approach!

11 Comments »

Andris & Partners – Great Lawyer In Batam

I met Pak Andris (Pak Is a term to signify respect and a salutation to a male person. Ibu is a term of respect to address a female person).

Pak Andris is a lawyer or we call Hukum in Bahasa Indonesia.

I got along smashingly well with Pak Andris as we met and spoke for 2 hours discussing a legal matter which I was in Batam for.

We ended up discussing in Hokkien dialect and I was quite taken aback that I could really conduct a legal meeting in Hokkien! LOL!

Sharp, astute and eloquent, Pak Andris was not full of hot air. He was realistic in his views, down to earth and took us through the matter on hand offering views and options.

What I especially liked and respected was his commitment to us as clients, availing himself to us on mobile as and when required.

Though I had just met him on Monday, by Tuesday we were fast friends.

His practice is not big but niche with 3 other partners. They are all very busy but they met us on Tuesday night without hesitation.

I would recommend anyone in need of Indonesian law to consult Pak Andris. He travels to Jakarta, Medan and other Indonesian states for cases too.

It is good to have a competent lawyer and one with heart at that. Pak Andris is one such lawyer 🙂

2 Comments »