Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Literary Hazards

Ok, I admit it - I have been battling with my children over the use of Singlish.  It is developing into what I deem to be literary hazards.

Since young, I have been using Mandarin (Chinese) with them at home, so I would say Mandarin is their mother-tongue.  I used to get asked by relatives why I do not get them to speak English since English is the key language used in local schools.  It has been this very reason that I choose to use Mandarin with my children since they could always learn and pick up English in school and well, almost everywhere else in Singapore.  But as my children got older and started attending school, I realized how wrong I could be.

What the children learnt - or rather, picked up - is not English, but Singlish.  In the beginning, it is funny to hear them say it.  After a while, it has become their mother-tongue.  Even between the siblings, they use Singlish.

There is actually nothing wrong - they write fine and they read enough to know what is grammatically correct.  However, my regular correction of their Singlish is too lame against the 'forces of the society' when it comes to their spoken language.

This is not the end of it all.  The use of Mandarin is slowly and unconsciously being replaced by the use of Singlish.  Switching the children back to speaking Mandarin, with reminders for them to “讲华语” can be disastrous.  You get to hear things you could hardly comprehend and decipher. I had to get them to translate it back to Singlish or English for enlightenment.  Here are some dreadful yet funny examples:

You hear people say in Singlish: "Why must eat everyday?" which actually means "Why must I eat everyday?"  But who has ever heard of "为什么要吃每天?“

Here are more:

  I'm not! - 我不在!

  她没有在来 - She's not coming!

  What day is today? - 今天是什么天?

  Papa is behind me - 爸爸后面我!

  I can eat it myself - 我可以吃那个自己!

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