Rekindling Language

When I started my first job in Project Eyeball, I probably took for granted the fact that almost everyone there spoke and wrote great English.
A programmer colleague said this was the most well-spoken lot he’d ever worked with, but having come fresh from a law school in England and an English-speaking home, I didn’t think he was serious.
Then when I moved out into other sectors and started meeting more people, I realised that it wasn’t the norm in Singapore. People mixed up their ‘have’ and ‘has’; added an ‘s’ to uncountable nouns, tangling up the he’s from the she’s and getting ‘me’ and ‘I’ confused.
What irks me greatly is hearing people speak with a smattering of Mandarin and Chinese. They use nouns of important words in English, while the rest of their statements are made in Mandarin. Perhaps it is a product of our bilingual education system that some of us have turned into a Jack-of-all-trades where it comes to languages. While my Mandarin is far from intelligible, I try to make complete sentences in the same language, even if it is to order a bowl of noodles with chilli.
We should aim to be proficient in one language without having to rely on other forms of lingo, or else it might be more tricky, or less natural, the next time we have to deal with foreigners who may not speak our dialect or understand Singlish.
Another lot of Singaporeans have an affinity for bombastic words. At a writing course I attended for the past two days, we did a short exercise trimming down lengthy phrases into one or two words which had exactly the same meaning.
I’m thinking that this built-in need for complexity comes about largely due to insecurity. By filling up the expression of your ideas with big words, you think the reader will be impressed and not notice the holes in your argument so easily. We were told that smart bosses aren’t fooled. Lee Kuan Yew himself preferred clear and concise papers because those were actually harder to write than long, flowery ones. That was an interesting thought!
So that’s what I’ve been up to the past few days – learning and reflecting on the state of our nation. Once again, thank you for bearing with my silence. Good night.


  1. Jia

    hehheh, I had all my bombastic-ness knocked out of me in poly with this phrase “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” from a very scary lecturer.

  2. Lucian

    “I’m thinking that this built-in need for complexity comes about largely due to insecurity.”
    I guess I need to use hard words because I’m scared.
    Yikes. Sometimes we hide behind multisyllabic words.

Comments are closed.