Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Language

For a little while today, I managed to have some quiet moments to myself to watch the rain come down. This afternoon, many commented that compared to my usual voices, I sounded very different when I get up on stage.

For someone who isn't very sociable, I sure like being an emcee a fair bit. It's an easy job. I like how it makes me think on my feet. I'm not a particularly sterling emcee. Competent enough, I suppose. I'm not very good hosting games and fun events. It's positively exhausting, especially when I'm not the bubbly-iest person or the friendliest in the room. But I can do formal nicely. Preferably at conferences when I just need to look solemn.

The one emcee job I regret missing out on was to do this forum last month. By the time I was asked to be the forum's emcee, the flights, hotels and transport in Bali had already been sorted! I wasn't going to cancel the vacation. To even think of being an emcee again, I'd have to wait till 2012- by that time, I might very well not be in this office anymore! :( What to do?!

At this forum, emcees were respectively needed to speak in English and Mandarin. It would be ideal if the emcees were effectively bilingual. It was really the chance of a lifetime. I knew I could do it, and cover for my co-emcee if necessary. Regardless of which language I take, I'd be able to understand the other almost immediately. That can be very helpful. Even more so, I wanted to tell my office that we have good Mandarin speakers around whose pronunciation, at least, can be on par with our counterparts'. I've honestly gotten very sick of hearing colleagues say that their Mandarin/Chinese isn't good enough. It can be. Try harder. It's quite tiring to speak Mandarin with the typical Singapore accent, which I have to do often to assimilate in the typical settings. My friends would know exactly what I mean because I don't put on that accent with them. When I forget and slip into my usual accent, people ask if I'm from China.

I haven't spent 12 years in school studying the language, its culture and history for nothing. I was one of those idiots who did 'Higher Chinese' for A-levels and took an additional 'General Paper' in Chinese. And I come from a home where English and Bahasa Indonesia are dominant. French was painful, but as a kid, I was supposed to have a slightly more than rudimentary grasp of it so that I could understand everything else in life. (My strange English boarding-school educated mother came up with that brilliant policy for her children.) Yes, English is the language I'm most comfortable with, eloquent and properly schooled in. By a quirk of fate, Thai is a close second. The Chinese language lags behind at third place. I don't view it as my mother tongue. I feel nothing for it. It's an unwanted label slapped onto me by virtue of the race stated in my identity card.

I'm glad I don't have children, not now, not ever. I'll not have to deal with the unfathomable depths of the system. You know that one of the reasons I don't want children is because I feel very strongly about certain social policies in this country and as long as I live here, I do not want any imaginary offspring to undergo what I had gone through. It's simply getting worse. If my imaginary kid isn't close to being a genius, she'd better have a sizeable trust fund to back her up. Well, even if I live overseas, while I might be more open to the idea, it doesn't negate the fact that I'm not interested in raising kids or negotiating the competitive path of parenthood. So there.

While I can present my brilliant opinions on it, the truth is, I don't care about the whole issue about the mother tongue weighting. All of us know it isn't just about the weighting.


tuti said...

life is hard enough, so without backings, better not have a child.
i was a smart kid, but couldn't fight the system. didn't have the means to study abroad, nor in a private college locally, so here i am, stuck till decades past. i am going to come back and haunt the people who put me in this state.

and it is not true that hard work pays off. okay, for a small percentage of people, it might.
but mostly, it's just too bad if you're born with no spoon.
sorry i am ranting, and off topic.

tuti said...

to be more specific, chinese pulled me down. the idiot who did that should be hung and re-hung.
(sorry again, had to explain)

Cavalock said...

Amen to that, was ranting bout it on my blog too

sinlady said...

i did the higher Chinese thing too. don't ask me why. then promptly forgot Mandarin until i re-learned it in California because it was easier than making the different Chinese people there speak English.

moral of story is - we will pick up language(s) when it becomes relevant.

imp said...

tuti: that's the problem. chinese killed many people's grades back then. it shouldn't be a pre-requisite to uni entry or watever. that's just high-handed.

cavalock: i read yours! i just think it's a short-sighted policy which is good for a segment of the population, but kills the rest of the segment. it's like, you want us to get A in everything, but something's gotta give right? some pple will get 4 As and 4 Fs. so why can't we just focus on the 4As? Grrr.

sinlady: definitely. then the debate will begin on whether one could have learnt it properly in school so better benefit the adult life. it's like, why do i have to learn scalars and vectors, trigo and algebra?! i've NEVER used it since 16.

wildgoose said...

While i flunked my higher chinese, i must say, if chinese is given a lower weightage, then what of other subjects? Different ppl excel in different subjects. Wouldn't the lower weightage then penalise those who do well in Chinese then?

Little Miss Snooze said...

Now, how did that go from being an emcee to chinese to not wanting to have children? ;)

I would have loved to have seen & heard u in action at the forum. ;)

imp said...

wildgoose: then the system will say, 'too bad'. again.

lms: heh. you know i'll sneak all these in at any chance! ultimately, it's just something i want to say in a very roundabout way about the language weighting debacle.