Ken Lyen's Home
Ken's Links
London Revisited 2000
Letter from London 2006
Singapore Musical Theatre
Making the Grade
Writing Musicals
Musicals from Movies
Fred Ebb
The Story of Chess
Mama Mia
Bad Vibrations
Chestnuts 2003
Chestnuts 2004
Chestnuts 2005
Incubating New Musicals
List of Musicals on Film
Is Musical Theatre Dead?
Is Classical Music Dead?
Is Poetry Dead?
Why Read Poetry?
New Words
Nothing's Wrong
Hippie Dictionary
Singlish Dictionary
Blog Dictionary
Best of the Best
English Spoke
Reading in Decline
Too Many Books
Magic of Reading
Pablo Neruda
Graphic Novels
Writers Bar
Lost For Words
Encyclopedia Wars
Library in Cyberspace
The Bridge
Growing A Film Industry
Great Levellers
Rote Rites and Rongs
Beautiful Minds
Create Talented Individuals?
Rise of the Creative Class
Perchance to Dream
Children's EQ
Gifted Education
Gifted Children
Mozart Effect
Confucius and Multiple Intelligences
Predicting Your Future
Mistyping Personality
Messy Homes
Does Age Matter?
Too Young for Philosophy?
Philosopher for Hire
Deconstructing Derrida
University Quotas
Ranking Universities
University Ranking Continued
The Future of Universities
If Thine Eye Offends Thee
If It Ain't Broke
New Exams for Old!
Too Many Test
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Childhood Memories
Signs of Success
Follow Your Dreams
First Impressions
Handphone Etiquette
Handphones Silenced
Apple Of My i
Sex and the Media
The Greeks
Geographic Clangers
Domino Theory
Hello Kitty
Heels on Wheels
What a Racket!
Potty Training
Skip to the Loo
Corporal Punishment
Is Modern Art Rubbish?
Mona Lisa Grins
Sunday in the Park
Vision and Art
Spam Glorious Spam!
Humble Pie
Sour Grapes?
Murphy's Law Calculator
Perfect Search
False Logic
Noah's Ark
Who Discovered America?
Palaces of Dictators
Joys of Stress
Games Academics Play
Virtual Reality Treatmemt
Autistic Underconnectivity
Asperger Syndrome
Pay Attention!
Attention Deficit
Speech Delay
Almost Normal
Prozac Nation
Gilles de la Tourette
Singapore Medicine
Virtual Dissection
War Against Malaria
Into the Frying Pan
Back to Methuselah
Poetic Medicine
Far Eastern Economic Review
History of the Singapore Musical
My Research
Singapore Idle
Best Countries
Brain Drain
Greatest Happiness
Remaking Singapore
Singapore Nobel Prize
Singapore MRT Map
National Day
Caste System
Doctors' Fees
Leadership and Teambuilding
Doctor Do-Much
Play it Again, Doc
A Dose of Music
Prescription for the Heart
Multiple Personality
Fly By Night
Rape of Nanking
Iris Chang
Anne Frank
Angela's Ashes
The Notebook
Hollywood Insider
Fahrenheit 9/11 Pirates
The Front
The Barbarian Invasions
Les Choristes
The Return
Road Home
Farewell My Concubine
So You Want to be a Nurse
School House Rockz
Makan Place
e-mail me

English Spoke


English As She Is Spoke

by Kenneth Lyen

I watch CNN news every day. What fascinates me most, is not so much the news, although that’s the raison d’etre for watching, but rather the myriad of accents captured on screen.

Yes, they are all speaking English, but the variety of accents is stunning. Sometimes I can’t understand what is being said. I play a game and close my eyes, just listening to the voice, and challenge myself to guess the country of origin of the speaker. The newscaster may have an Australian drawl, the reporter may have an Indian lilt, the interviewees could have a sing-song Hong Kong cadence, or a gruff middle eastern voice. It is quite amusing to watch someone from Shanghai or Tokyo speaking American English fused with Chinese English or Japanese English. But the predominant accent is American. Well, CNN is an American network after all.

Well, what about our local Singapore news channel? You might expect to hear a Singapore accent, wouldn’t you? But I hear mostly American accents spoken by the newscasters. This is quite a change from the past, when a British accent was preferred, as we were once a British colony.

American English has conquered the world!

I discovered another amazing thing. I found that I can switch from one accent to another depending on who I’m talking to. If I’m with someone who speaks with a Singapore English accent or Singlish, I will do likewise. If I’m with an upper crust Britisher, I would put on my best Queen’s lah dee dah English. And if I’m with an American, I will speak gee, there you go again American. All this is done automatically, and I don’t have to think twice in switching modes. I’m a bit of a speech chameleon. Perhaps I could try my hand at telephone sales!

Unfortunately, the Singapore Government has banned Singlish. How can a Government ban a way of speaking, especially when spoken by much of the population? Quite easily. Nobody is allowed to broadcast Singlish on radio or television, and school children are not allowed to speak it. But why? You may ask. With falling standards of spoken English, our Government felt that Singlish will not be understood by the rest of the world, and will disadvantage us. When my British and American friends heard this they were totally flabbergasted. They asked me, "How paternalistic can a Government ever get?" I remained silent, chewing mental gum. (Chewing physical gum is banned).

Language is meant for communication. If one can communicate better with Singlish, especially to one’s family and friends, then surely it is better to use Singlish for better understanding. Most of us can automatically switch to a Singlish mode. However, when communicating with overseas clients, we can press a different switch inside our brains, and out pops an appropriate accent.

Let me test you. Here’s an example of Singlish. I’m sure you will have no difficulty understanding me: "Can on the TV, lah!" (If you are a Singapore censor reading this, the Singlish message will self-destruct in a few seconds).