Singapore

I find it (as always) difficult to articulate this sudden suffusion of sentiment, and my only recourse is to circle the issue by providing the context. Have been thinking about language a lot lately, both as a potential topic for my EE and then as the issue for my TOK presentation (and essay, but that’s not relevant here), and from there I hit upon the phenomenon of Singlish as an excellent topic for TOK here, fulfilling, perhaps cynically, the dual criteria of being both an excellent knowledge issue and also a quaint, Singaporean characteristic that should prove amusing to present to the class.

Then of course, looking at all the videos on Youtube and both the academic and non-academic discourse on it, and – a lot of it is very poignant. Listening to it is hilarious; I was watching Just Follow Law (which reminds me of so many things,  and ; I can’t remember why we never watched it) and a lot of it was the lovely, reassuring familiarity of the setting and then also the ease and comfort of the language, the easy transition between dialect and Mandarin and English, and also the uniqueness in that people around me couldn’t understand it. Even the people from Hongkong, though they got the Chinese, they didn’t really get the Singlish, and – my thoughts are all jumbled now, but even as I research and watch and listen and read, I find myself in the unenviable position of not being able to talk to anyone here about it, or anyone, easily, at least, because you guys are timezones away. The internal conflict is a curious, emotional one – it’s not like I have a particularly strong connection to Singlish or that I even know how to use it very much (although there are different levels of Singlish ! And the vocabulary is transferable); even now, I feel like the level of  English in this entry is unusually high, all things considered – as though I was writing an essay. Could very well be overcompensating – today I was talking about it in English class, just briefly, and I felt as though my enunciation and my intonation were going haywire simply because mentioning Singlish made me incredible conscious of the way I talk (and hey, social/governmental conditioning, right!) But listening to it is comforting, and of course it could all simply be a side effect of missing home.

Articles I’ve found about it have been interesting, though, and the analysis generally of a higher standard than I remember from those primary/secondary school debates about it.

Singlish becomes a potent symbol of who we are, how we think, and how we speak. This is especially so for many overseas Singaporeans who are able to instantly recognise fellow citizens with Singlish. It is thus no surprise that many want to celebrate it as an icon of local culture.
 
Singlish is, however, also a means of class differentiation. Although many argue that Singlish should be celebrated as part of national identity, in reality, this argument comes only from the English-proficient middle class.

 
We revel in its down-to-earth factor and wear it like a badge of honour to show how unashamedly Singaporean we are. Meanwhile, we overlook the many Singaporeans out there who cannot speak anything else but Singlish. In doing so, we erase the harsh realities of these Singlish-speakers such as economic marginalisation in our search for symbols of national identity.

Furthermore, being able to code-switch effortlessly between Singlish and grammatically-sound English, the English-proficient middle class demonstrates its cultural capital vis-à-vis Singlish-speaking heartlanders. This explains why the English-proficient middle class is, by large, the most vocal champion of Singlish.

Hence, in professing affection for the Ah Beng and Singlish, the English-proficient middle class has co-opted the Ah Beng and Singlish for its own interests. We seek from Singlish and the Beng the imprimatur of heartlander authenticity to counter accusations of cosmopolitan pretensions, while we continue to look beyond our shores for cultural consumption.

from here.

Singlish has changed a lot since the beginning, though. I was watching Money No Enough (I remember I liked it so much when I was younger) and the dialect was overwhelming, as was the stereotypical, Kiasu, nouveau riche mentality of Singaporeans, and then Phua Chu Kang, which, I kid you no, I have never watched at all (I was Mediacorp-phobic when I was younger), and then more recent productions like Just Follow Law, I Not Stupid and the song We Live in Singapura (GO WATCH IT AGAIN, JUST BECAUSE), and – Singlish has matured, you know. There’s a lot less dialect now, which makes sense because so few people speak it now, thanks to concerted governmental policies, right; English has replaced it, obviously. I know I was watching Money No Enough and I thought it was kind of a pity that the dialects would kind of be lost pretty soon, because the newer generations are speaking them less and less. Even so, I can’t quite shake off my impression of dialects and the older form of Singlish as more crude and uneducated – and I don’t know if that’s inherent in the sounds (PROBABLY NOT, RIGHT) or just the propaganda and social attitudes I grew up with. I don’t really get that with the kind of Singlish we use now, in RJ and stuff.

(About this – I’m still in the habit of saying ‘we’ to refer to Raffles and Singapore, and it caused confusion last night when I was talking to F, because I was like yeah our school prints all the past year papers for us and he was like … really? and I was like yeah all the past A levels and prelims and he said oh you mean your old school and I said well yeah and he was like it’s not us, then, which, fair enough, right. The sense of belonging (I absolutely hate that the poetry anthology we did in Sec 2 forever made that phrase a laughable cliché for me) for me towards Raffles is still very strong /o\

I can’t really speak Singlish here, especially when asked. I understand it, I know what to say, but. Even writing it – I was forced to do a creative piece during English class today and I just used that time to research on my TOK presentation so I ‘wrote’ a Singlish play – was difficult; the stigma attached to it is really strong. But also, if you go to the Singlish part of the education part of the 1999 National Day Rally speech, the reasons the government gave for banning Singlish make complete sense, and coupled with the point in the early quote that the strongest proponents of Singlish are those privileged enough to know how to code-switch, it’s not simply a matter of Singlish = Singapore culture = good.

IN ANY CASE. Today I also tried making this zebra cake, but I think the recipe called for too much oil or my four extra-large eggs were too large or I coated the baking tin with too much oil or I didn’t use cocoa or something, and it came out too much like pancakes. But I will Buy Cocoa Dark Chocolate, and try again. It looks gorgeous.

I also wore something pretty and summery today. It’s 13 deg, totally to break out the … sun. It’s been a happy few days (: 

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