Re-Learning English

0 Comments 17 September 2007 / by

in the first few weeks i was in singapore, it was never occured to me that adjusting to the life here would be tough. i thought, it would be a breeze, especially since i’ve lived independently before. the thought that i will not be here totally alone, it would make it even easier for me to adapt. unfortunately, it was completely WRONG!!!

i don’t know what exactly but even after three months, i still don’t feel that i belong here. i guess, i overestimated myself. the adjustment period when i moved back to jakarta was easy, cuz no matter how long i’ve lived abroad, i’m still an indonesian. and fitting back in was just like turning my palm to another side. all the while i lived in the US, only gives me an ease to the american culture. and arrogantly as the americans, i thought that it’s the culture everyone would have. i thought, WRONG, obviously!

singapore is made-up from the chinese culture. and since the country was a british colony, it has a thick historical influence from the british. combine the two together and you get… SINGLISH!!

until now, i still could not yet relate to the singlish way of speaking. not that i speak perfect english either, but my way of speaking english somehow totally oblivious compare to singlish. i would talk to people in my english and they completely wouldn’t understand a word i’m saying. while i keep thinking that people speak in mandarin when i realized they were speaking in english. it’s just … weird!

here are some adjustments that i’ve come to realize so far:

1. CAN and CANNOT
since i learned my english in america, i tend to say ‘can’ or ‘can’t’, with similar pronounciation between the two. i don’t really know how to differentiate it really, but i can tell when people say can in oppose to saying can’t. here, in singapore, i have to make sure that i say can or cannot, otherwise, they don’t understand what i mean. since the british pronounce can’t with higher ‘ah’… it’s rather to say it that way or say it in full term of cannot. and with singlish, you must get use to say it with ‘lah‘ at the end of the sentence. “ok, can lah…” or “you cannot go there lah…

2. CAPSICUM
honestly, i’ve never heard this word before i stepped foot to singapore. in the beginning, i didn’t know what that word means at all. i thought it was a name for cheese or whatever. cuz i first saw it when i was ordering pizza. then i saw it everywhere. in pasta menu, grocery store.. and it points out to… PAPRIKA! i’m used to calling it paprika or bell pepper. but this other name, probably even the formal one, never passed by me. so it’s new learning for me!

3. COLLEAGUE
now, tell me.. how do you pronouce “colleague”? well, do you know that more than 95% of singaporeans are wrongly pronouncing “colleague”? they pronounce it as “kerleague”. how’s that for confusion?

4. THE LETTER “H”
this is just beyond me. when i came, i used to wonder what they were talking about when they say that i should go to “hedge are“. turns out they meant HR as in human resources. the way they pronounce the letter H is not as in eitch but they pronounce it as hedge. and it’s common among singaporeans. so imagine when they corrected me when i didn’t pronounce it “correctly” as hedge! 😛

5. PLACES: BOAT QUAY, CLARKE QUAY, TAMPINES…
singaporeans have a funny way on pronounciating places. unfortunately i don’t have a say in this. cuz places, especially when it’s already official, should be taken as they call it, not how it should be. though it’d be just fun to mention, i think. i remember when i came, i used to wonder where the hell is boat key, i just can’t find it on the map. all i can see was just boat quay. then i realized that they don’t pronounce quay as “kway” but the pronounce it as “key”. hence the famous “boat key”, not “boat kway”. 🙂

how about this place where my office is located? it’s called “tampines”. in a normal english, you’d probably pronounce it as “tem-pains“, wouldn’t you? unfortunately, the correct pronounciation is “tam-pee-nees“.

but then again, when it comes to places, the way you pronounce it will show if you’re a local or not. just like this one street in new york city.. a local will know that you would pronounce it as “hausten” instead of “yoosten” for the infamous street of “houston” in downtown new york. weird? yes. but only locals would know.

and there are more of this… i’ll compile them when i learn the new ‘words’ again… 🙂

:: sLesTa

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a worker by choice, a mother and a wife by nature / owner of slesta.com / co-founder of the urban mama / the urban muslimah | email: slesta[at]slesta[dot]com

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