Make Everyone Understands

(Image: memeshare)

They finally understand.

Okay. Chill down, me ain’t no taking about Minesweeper. Ignore that word in that photo up there.

Our dear gahmen finally understand the need of using dialects. I mean they finally understand how to convey important messages to the senior citizens through the use of dialects. Ever since the introduction of the Speak Mandarin Campaign in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, we have seen the prominent success of the government campaign. However, if you tend to take a look at it at another angle, it also meant that the number of dialect speakers in this country is decreasing drastically. Go out on the streets one day, pick out 10 random youths you see and ask them which dialect group they are from. Maybe, 6 to 7 of them can answer you. Now, challenge them to see if they can speak their own dialects.

Maybe only one of them could speak fluently in his/her dialect. (Look, even President Obama is sad with that. Er.. Wait. What does he got to do with this? Haha.)

(Image: troll.me)

Although that is my assumption, but that is still accurate since it is based on the groups of friends I have. That’s a relatively sad truth we have to face.

As from a quote from former PM Lee Kuan Yew, who somehow masterminded the campaign, during his speech at the Speak Mandarin Campaign’s 30th Anniversary Launch:

To effectively promote Mandarin, we closed down all dialect programs on radio and TV from 1979. Also, I was setting a bad example making speeches in Hokkien in the 1960s and ‘70s to reach the largest number of Chinese. From 1979, some 30 years ago, I decided to stop speaking in Hokkien and switched to Mandarin. Had I not done this, Hokkien/Teochew will be the predominant common language for the Chinese in Singapore, not Mandarin.”

This is how the government massacred the use of dialects. They started from controlling what you are watching and cut off your ties with dialects. Other than the older generations who were not affected because they could still converse with each other in their respective dialects. The so-called ‘success’ of the entire campaign came for Singaporeans who were born after the late 1980s. They were mainly brought up speaking Mandarin, listening to Mandarin. That’s still good compared to people who were brought up speaking English, listening to English, and were incompetence in the language in which their ancestors have been speaking and writing for at least a thousand years.

Well. At least most of them understands Chinese. It’s a kind of consolation to our ancestors.

However, don’t you realise the missing-in-action of dialects resulted in the wider generation gap between this generation and the older generations (not including the generation of their parents)? I mean, don’t you think it lack the kind of familiarity and friendliness?

I’ve been taught Teochew since young because my father is Teochew and grew up speaking that language at home. I also speaks and understand Hokkien because my mum is a Hokkien (plus I always watch Taiwanese dramas). I am glad I grew up in such condition because it makes it easier for me when I am conversing with those older people in my neighbourhood. They will be very happy to talk to you and want to talk to you more because you make it easy for them to express themselves through the use of dialects.

Some quotes from former PM Lee again, same speech, same event:

The value of a language is its usefulness, not just in Singapore, but also in the wider world. If you speak Hokkien or Cantonese, you reach some 60 million in Fujian and Taiwan, or about 100 million in Guangdong and Hong Kong. With Mandarin, you can speak to 1,300 million Chinese from all provinces in China. Now, overseas Chinese and foreigners are learning Mandarin, not Chinese dialects. China is setting up 500 Confucius Institutes in different countries to teach Mandarin to many millions of people around the world.”

“To keep a language alive, you have to speak and read it frequently. The more you use one language, the less you use other languages. So the more languages you learn, the greater the difficulties of retaining them at a high level of fluency. “

For many who knows me, they know I am a dialect-speaker at home, but they also know how good I am with my written Chinese and my spoken Mandarin. And I write in English, like what I do on my blog and I make videos, act and even give speeches in English. If we want to, we can master our dialect, Mandarin and English together. Dialects with the elders/at home, Mandarin and English in schools and with friends. How is that difficult?

Anyway, why did I suddenly have the intention to write this blog? It was after when I saw this video:

This is the government’s effort in explaining the Pioneer Generation Package to our pioneer generation. And they finally realised that they have to make sure everyone of them understands what goodies they will be entitled to. They know that conversing with them in Hokkien is inevitable.
But then, why on earth are you putting that only on the Internet. 
(Image: memegen)
It is widely assumed that many of our seniors doesn’t use the internet, let alone surfing on YouTube to listen to what you have to offer. Just remove Part 13.4 of the MDA’s Free-to-Air Television Programme Code and put that up on Channel 8 or maybe, Channel NewsAsia. I think that will be more ‘targeting your audience’, right?
For those of you who wants to be more convinced on the reintroduction of dialects, you can read these two well-written articles: Here and Here.
P.S. Not sure why when I read former PM Lee Kuan Yew’s speech during the Speak Mandarin Campaign ‘s 30th Anniversary Launch back in 2009 for research to write this post, I feel like he was in the wrong event. He should be at Speak Good English Campaign instead. I am confused.

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© 2013-19 Eddy Chua