Saturday, July 30, 2005

Death of the dialects

I think it is quite sad when I see how many Singaporeans do not understand their dialects. A large part of this may stem from broadcasting censorship. I fondly recall the days when we had TV2 and could watch Cantonese movies and dramas. Nowadays, if you do not get the programs from cable, you are hardly able to find dialect spoken on television. At most, you have an elderly muttering one or two phrases in locally produced serials meant to tug on your heartstrings. Or maybe those dialect-based operas shown periodically on Arts Central.

While I am not a polyglot of dialects, I do understand some of my parents' utterances. I have friends who cannot differentiate their dialects from other dialects because they are simply not exposed to it. Maybe the "Speak Mandarin" and "Speak Good English" campaigns are successful in the sense of getting more people to use these two languages, but at what cost? In the past, if you cannot speak your dialect, some people may even say you "bo ka si" (without proper upbringing in hokkien). Nowadays, the dialects that help us identify our ancestral roots are all but lost on later generations.

I feel there is something heartwarming when I see how kids can converse with their grandparents fluently in dialects. My late granny used to howl at how I pronounced my Cantonese but I did try after all. And I was happy when she laughed.


Anonymous said...

erm i dunno why but i always feel funny(in a bad way) whenever i see kids conversing with their grandparents fluently in dialects. Somehow it leads me to think that this fluency must be at the expense of their english...


ei|een said...

i agree. i think dialects are very important, even in modern society where everything is english and mandarin.

i was brought up in an english speaking environment, but due to my working life and my friends i was exposed to dialects.

i'm not very fluent, but at least i can scold people, and i know when people are talking bad about me! haha :p

Adrian said...

We must KNNBCCB speak more hokkien!

starstar said...

i think its a waste not knowing some form of dialect. ancestral roots indeed! i've been exposed to dialects since young, i can understand cantonese, hokkien, teochew and hakka, while being fairly fluent in teochew. most of my friends cannot even understand hokkien, which i deem is one of the most common dialects in singapore, wasted!