For years, the government has been tormenting us, almost desperately begging us, to stop using Singlish.
For years, Singaporeans have collectively flipped a middle finger back.
And it’s not because we hate being told what to do. In fact, the government decides much of our daily lives. Tell me where to live based on racial quotas? Sure, why not. Forcibly send me to Tekong for 3 months? Thanks so much for the free food and housing! Take away my lahs, lehs and Hokkien expletives? Nope. Not doing that. Who do you think you are?
After letting the government interfere in deeply personal issues, it’s hilarious to me that Singlish is where we draw the line. Maybe that’s because we cling onto anything that remotely belongs to us — be it Chicken Rice, Chendol, or the territorial waters off Tuas (sorry Malaysians). In a country that is smaller than most major cities, it’s hard to come across something that’s so uniquely Singapore. That’s why we love Singlish.
It’s a language, which just like its country of origin, is filled with Chinese, Malay and Tamil. A language, which just like its country of origin, epitomises efficiency. Why say “I’m open to suggestions”, when you can say “anything also can”.
This year, the Speak Good English Movement is back with a bang. With a campaign called #LetsConnect, the movement highlights the need for Standard English as “a way of connecting with people at work and play” from around the world. With bright, minimalist posters telling us that we need to “be understood from Lakeside to London” for example, the campaign is meant to be friendly and playful.
I’m no linguist or social activist, and I definitely understand the reasoning behind the campaign. To a foreign ear, Singlish can sound alien and even uncouth. There are people in Singapore who think that Singlish is Standard English and can’t code-switch. For these people, sometimes employment and social opportunities are hampered. A campaign like this probably aims to help them.
However, if Standard English is celebrated and put on a pedestal, so should Singlish. Thus, as a nineteen-old teenager with a bit too much time on his hands, I decided to put my own spin on the #LetsConnect campaign.