Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading the "Words" right

Was reading the online paper and had a chuckle when I read the following article. The highlighted words are something I misheard regularly.

" Newpaper (source link)
I READ your earlier column on this subject, Reggie, and I too have been 'disturbed' by the ongoing mispronunciations of many of the TV news readers.

I've even called MediaCorp and asked them to tell Sushila Krishnan that the word 'laboratory' is not pronounced 'labatry'. But she still does it.

During the last haze season, one of them even pronounced the verb 'enveloped' as 'on-veloped' - from the noun 'envelope' (used for letters).

And the word 'cooperation' manages to continually come out as 'corporation'. "

When I was back in Singapore the last trip, I had the hardest time trying to correct my young nephews while playing with them. That the animal is "Koala" and NOT "Koala bear" as many Singaporeans like to say it (and become a laughing stock to many Australians). I'm not even sure who had misled my nephew. Rather than seeing it as ignorance, I prefer to think they have been misled by the Mandarin terminology of Koala. Koala in itself is not a bear. It is a marsupial - pouched mammals.

In my experience. When I was back in Singapore having breakfast at Orchard Paragon at PS cafe with Bill, I had the hardest time understanding what the waitress was saying when I asked her the special menu of the day. Christ! She couldnt pronouce "cranberry" correctly, and many others. I had to repeat "Pardon me" and "Could you repeat again please" several times before I could place my order. When she left, Bill laughed so loudly and said "Welcome back to Singlish". I didnt know if I should be amused or shocked by the fact that the waitress couldnt get so many basic words right...

In Chinese restauarants, we are swarmed with Chinese nationals who couldnt speak english. It's bad for tourism since the expats couldnt communicate in mandarin with these foreign help. In Sydney, we had the same problem. We went to a cantonese restaurants, expecting the waiting staff to speak either English or Cantonese but ended up with a bunch of people who could only speak mandarin. While I was fine, my husband was annoyed to bits since he expected the staff to minimally speak English being IN AUSTRALIA. So much for globalisation.

Back to the article, the word "envelope" is a little trickier though depending if it is being used as a noun or verb. I think not many people know the difference. (check out the difference) .

For myself, I do unfortunately get entangled with the word "Laboratory". While I do not mispronounce it as "labortry", my brain do often get jammed between the British vs American way of saying it and so my tongue would stumbled over it. It's unfortunate I know...

Well I certainly hope the article shed more light to Singaporeans on the need of speaking good English. It's not about defending the "Singlish accent" nor is it an issue of emulating the accent of "stiff upper lips". It's a wider issue of getting the essential linguistic foundation right.


littlecartnoodles said...

I share the same symptoms of Singlish withdrawal as you - I've been having trouble understanding the "English" spoken by some of our countrymen, esp when I watch them being interviewed on CNA.

Are you familiar with those Mitsubishi Electric ads on CNBC ? Piang eh ... (There's a post about it on my blog)

Some pronunciation pet peeves :
- "petrol" sounds like "patrol" : a common mistake by radio DJs
- "Japanese" when pronounced in a Singaporean accent just sounds sooo wrong

When I was in transit at Changi T3 a few months back, the cashier at the Toastbox was this skinny dude with a whiny voice. The tourists in front of me in the queue were having so much trouble understanding him. I decided to order my teh-c in Mandarin.

"me-no-mad" said...

OMG! You are right! Everytime I get to see those local sg interview on TV, i really CRINGED and goosebumps appear. I am not being a snob or anything but yeah i know what you mean with the wrong pronouciation. One would expect better spokesperson for the whole to see!!!

Luckily my experience at Brewerkz at T3 was very plesant. The local girl was well spoken and the rest of the serving staff sound like from philippines so it was still relatively understandable...