Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

I read with uncanny interest about a “Integration and Roti Prata” forum rebuttal published in the Straits Times (28 Jul 2012) by Mr Gorain Jagadish on Mr Asad Latif ‘s “Confession of a former foreign misfit” (ST, 13 Jul).

In Asad’s article, he found “Roti prata was an unbearable tautology because prata is a kind of roti”.    (a needless repetition of the same sense in different words; redundancy – online free dictionary)

Both Mr Asad and Gorain asserted that roti also means bread in their language – Malay and Indian.

It is good that you read both article to better appreciate their interpretations of integration and misfits.

Here I like to give you a Chinese perspective why Roti Prata is used together by telling a simple story:

Mei Lan ( a typical Chinese lady name), back in the 60’s era went to market and overheard a conversation between a local Malay customer and an immigrant Indian “Roti Prata” hawker.  The Malay customer pointed at the Roti Prata and said he wanted “Roti” but the Indian hawker proudly and categorically emphasized  that it is called “Prata”.

A short distance away, Mei Lan came across another “roti prata” stall. This time it was a Malay hawker seller who emphasized the word “roti” over the prata and even rolled his tongue to associate both terms.

The Chinese lady, Mei Lan, realised that to simply get the message across when buying the prata or roti is to use the term “Roti Prata” that all can understand and without much hassles or undermining of their heritage cuisine whether localised or imported.

So in our local context, Singapore as a a melting pot (hopefully not a cauldron) for different ethnics and foreign integrations will continue to retain certain “tautologized”  words that helped to integrate the early forms of communications (30’s to 60’s era) when English was not the widely used medium among the locals and immigrants. Thus many “conjugated” words of different language or dialects mix naturally emerged and often intertwined for a more effective, better and faster form of communication besides introducing their original terms.

However, nowadays, we prefer to use the original foreign sounding words like “Pasta” or  Takoyaki (Japanese Octopus Dumpling Balls) as we become better educated and find it easier to associate with the original words to the country of origin and when travelling it becomes useful too.

Hence, roti prata will always be roti prata …. maybe roti canai in Malaysia.   ‘canai’ in Malay means ‘to roll out dough’ or it could be Channa, a dish made with boiled chickpeas  in a spicy gravy from Northern India which this type of bread was traditionally served.

So in a way, it is actually food for thought.

Here is a Chinese man learning how to make roti prata. Cheers!



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On 6 Sep, former PM Lee Kuan Yew started the ball rolling by announcing that the American version of English would probably prevail over other forms and teachers might have to eventually accept this as inevitable.  Even China are using American English.  So it is about time we have to start allow people to use both British and American spelling in our daily works.  Previously it was not acceptable because differently spelled words were not searchable in database due to phonetics search problems. But this has been resolved.

We have wasted to much time arguing or editing on the correct form (correct English spelling) rather than substance (effective communication). Imagine so much time wasted trying to decide whether the spell “defence” or “defense” or other peculiarity like dropping the “e” or a silent “e” – British English sometimes keeps silent e when adding suffixes where American English does not. Generally speaking, British English drops it in only some cases in which it is unnecessary to indicate pronunciation whereas American English only uses it where necessary.   For example “ageing” as compared to “aging”.   So much time wasted ignoring the automatic spell check or to add word into personalised dictionary.

So now we embark on Speaking Proper English.  This is good too. But eventually we may want to pronounce like the American like it is being taught so in China.  The underlying reason for doing so in China, is to better understand the Americans and besides a properly spoken American accent can be easily and quickly transcribed by phonetic software and immediately converted into written text for further processing.  This is something that we need to ponder about too.  Singlish remain unique and badly understood at times. But still relevant at times in our context.

Right-Handed Traffic versus Left-Handed Traffic System

I want to add on to Mr Lee’s wisdom on speaking American English.   Is driving on the right-hand side of the road becomes inevitable too as the majority of the world’s population including both China, Europe, Russia, Americas are using such a system in comparison to the Commonwealth system.

According to Wikipedia:

Likewise today about 66.1% of the world’s people live in right-hand traffic countries and 33.9% in left-hand traffic countries. About 72% of the world’s total road distance carries traffic on the right, and 28% on the left.  (link)

Red Shading – countries with right-hand traffic

Blue Shading – countries with left-hand traffic

Thus right-hand traffic may also become inevitable in the future for economic and safety concerns for the rapidly mobile workforce who travel frequently to countries with right-handed traffic.  Likewise we would be equally concern if more right-handed foreigners here are driving our left-handed vehicles and turning in the wrong directions.  In addition I would like to know how many of the vehicle accidents here were due to drivers including Singaporeans who obtain their driving license from a right-handed traffic system overseas during their work attachment or holiday etc.  How valid or safe are their driving skills in an opposing system like ours?

Are we becoming too myopic and stuck in a defunct commonwealth system or do we have to conform to world commonality standards for the inevitable control and domination?


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It is not too difficult to gauge. But one thing for sure , the writings have to be smooth. If you notice my intentionally use of the word “But” to commence the second sentence, might draw a few or even many “Oh my God! such bad grammar” to the seemingly well-schooled English-educated populace. But to me it is an “emphasizing congruity conjunction” with the first sentence, at least for continuity sake. This natural narrative form of essay writings tend to promote faster reading with lesser stoppages or disruption and this is perhaps the sole reason why children prefer to read novels than science books, unless the latter is filled with lots of drawings and clever illustrations. The former draws on imagination.

I am particular pissed off by the overly use of euphemism especially those that tend to veer towards the promotion of hidden agenda in their writings. This is especially bad for child’s novels as it tends to confuse a child at such early age and could inevitably kills his joy of reading if overly exposed to such “bad” writings.  This often happens in formal writings and seemed to have creped into many mainstream newspapers. It makeths reading difficult and arduously painful trying to interpret what the author is writing. They isn’t much joy in reading such “carefully” inserted or worded text. It may seem clever to the writer but to make a reader stop and think so many times within such a short span of (few) columns seemed pretty ridiculous.

Often when my reading inadvertently comes to a halt, it is often due to the insertion of euphemistic words wither by the editor or journalist that makeths or kills the article. I would jump to another article.

So when I go to the library, it is often with an open mind, to just flip pages of any novel and if it makeths for good reading than I might just borrow that book. To see the world through the author’s writings and to relive his or her adventure or even escapism that this “civilised” world have otherwise stagnated through so much power struggle. But the author has to be real. It is just like listening to a song, it is often the singer’s natural vocal and tonal expression that immediately appeal to you before even knowing who that person is. Often that person is good before the destructive effect of the media sets in.

So continuity and congruity is the key and often at the expense of brevity. And that is also why certain newspapers are faring better than others. Besides being informative, perhaps, they have the readability appeal factor.



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I seldom read my son’s compositions not because I do not care, but rather to give him much leeway to express himself in his writings. I do not want to influence his style of writings like most parents do. However, I often encourage him to read novels and books beyond his textbooks to be better educated. I often warned him the danger of rushing through his many homeworks just to please mum, his tuition teacher or simply to finish the arduous task to have enough time to play. To me this is a sure-fire way to kill the joy of learning.


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