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Formal or informal? Part 2

In Part 1, we talk about the importance of continuous learning of proper English / Chinese Language so that we can excel in school. So, should we start speaking alien language to our family and friends?


Imagine you are hungry and you tell your grandmother, “I am famished.” I bet the first answer from your grandmother is “Huh? What?”

For Chinese Language, we learn in school, cold is 冷, hot is 热。But if you want to order a hot barley from hawker centre (in Singapore), you say “barley, 热.”, and you will get a question from the uncle “冷的,还是烧的?” You thought you have said it correctly, but the uncle just does not understand “热”, and you need to answer his question with “烧的。”

A toddler has limited vocabulary, if you tell him / her that you are bringing him / her for “散步”, he / she will look at you blankly. Instead, “我们去走走。” will get him / her excited and wanting to go out with you.

Therefore, we should use either formal or informal language depending on the person and the situation. It is useless and pointless to speak proper English / Chinese Language to a person who just does not understand.

Another example, in Singapore, there is Singlish, which can be categorized under the informal language. Consider the following conversation between two friends:

Case 1

John: Is it raining?
Kenny: No lah, just some water drops from the tree.
John: Faster lah, you are wasting my time leh.
Kenny: Coming!

Case 2

John: Is it raining?
Kenny: No, it isn’t, it is just some water drops from the tree.
John: Please be fast, you are wasting my time.
Kenny: Coming!

If you are a passer-by and you overhear the conversation between John and Kenny. For case 1, you will think that they are close friends who can tease each other and play together. For case 2, you will think that they are just casual acquaintances.

Imagine you are in Paris and suddenly you hear someone speaking the oh-so-familiar Singlish, you will be very happy to find someone who speak your language, finally. Speaking Singlish is a sense of identity and familiarity.  

Thus, we can still continue to speak informal language with our family and friends. It is not wrong to use informal language outside of the school. We just need to have a button to switch to formal or informal language whenever we speak 🙂

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