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Do You Speak Dialect?

My father taught me Hokkien. His reason is that I will learn Chinese language and English language at school, but not dialects. By speaking Hokkien to my family members, I feel the sense of belonging. Furthermore, though I may not realize it when I was younger, learning Hokkien has helped me to grasp the idea of Chinese language grammar better.

Some parents may worry that learning dialect might confuse the children with other languages because of the difference in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. No, young children are good at language learning. There is no worry about confusion. The child only needs to be in a dialect-speaking environment and learn sufficient vocabulary to converse about daily life activities. Furthermore, there is no test for dialects, the child will learn happily without pressure.

Learning dialects burden the children? If it is the case, why my students who do not speak any dialects are still struggling with mother tongue? Why I, who speak Hokkien and Cantonese, can speak, read and write English language and Chinese language without problem?

Learning dialects at a later age? Why not start young when the grandparents and parents can be the child’s best teachers? Not only the child learns the dialect, he or she also learns to communicate with the grandparents and parents which will reinforce family relationship.

When I was at Hong Kong airport, I heard a child speaking fluent Cantonese. I was so touched and excited because we do not hear Singapore children speak fluent Cantonese or other dialects. I believe when the child grows up, no matter where he or she is, he or she can proudly say, “I speak Cantonese, I am from Hong Kong.”

In Singapore, the younger generation is not learning dialects. The grandparents have to learn English language or Chinese language to communicate with the grandchildren. This is very sad. When the grandparents pass away, the grandchildren will have no chance to learn dialects at a later age.

You argue that the parents can still teach dialects when their children are older. Yes, they may. But, language is a strange thing. When we first meet, the language of the first sentence that we speak to each other will determine the language we use for the rest of our relationship. It means that the parents have been used to speaking English language or Chinese language to the children, it is awkward to start speaking a dialect when, let’s say, the children are 20 years old. Thus, dialects should be learnt as early as possible.


“We are of different colours, but we speak the same dialect!”

Studies have shown that bilingual children are smarter and faster over single language children. If that is the case, multi-language children should have more advantages. Why stop at bilingual (English language and Chinese language) when we can provide the children more?

I am thankful to my father who had the foresight to teach me Hokkien. When I first met my grand-uncle, whom I have not met before, even in the absence of my father, I could confirm that he is my grand-uncle because he spoke “my” Hokkien. My father had given me the identity, the best gift that money cannot buy. It is my root, an important item to identify and define who I am.

Parents, would you teach your children to speak the dialect that you speak?


Hello? Do you read me?

Whenever there are people, there is miscommunication. Do you agree?

Scenario 1: There is a defective product found at the production department, the defect is minor, with minor rework, the issue can be settled and the product can be sent to the customer on time. But an employee does not communicate well, the minor defect is described as major, different departments start blaming each other and it affects the delivery.

Scenario 2: Your in-laws are visiting you but because of miscommunication between you and your spouse, both of you fail to pick them up at the train station. To make matter worse, it is a raining day and your in-laws fall sick because of nobody picking them up at the train station. How the story goes? I would imagine a disaster brewing.

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Last week was a busy week for me. My mum was staying with me for a week for the first time after I got married. The week before last week, my maternal grandmother was staying with my mum after my mum got married for so many years.

My relationship with my mum is not the intimate type as some mother-daughter relationships. Thus, the experience from last two weeks let me relook into mother-daughter relationship.

My grandmother is a quiet person. If you ask her what she would like for lunch, she will just say “anything will do”. Behind the “anything will do”, she does pick what she likes to eat and leave those that she does not like to eat. So, what my mum does is to observe what my grandmother eats and what she does not eat.

I am luckier than my mum. When I ask my mum the same question, she answers with specific answers so that I will not buy the wrong food. My mum provides me with direct answer, so I do not need to spend time observing. The observation method needs more time and you need to do trial and error too. (According to my mum, my grandmother has changed her taste over time.)

Two mother-daughter relationships, two different communication styles. My mum observes and I listen. There is no perfect way to communicate. We will adapt our communication skills depending on who we are communicating with. With our loved ones, we do our best to get the best results from communication, whether it is by listening or observation or both.


Are you really happy?

Miscommunication can happen anytime, anywhere. During communication, both parties, the speaker and the listener, play a part. The speaker speaks clearly and the listener listens carefully. Both parties need to look for non-verbal clues as well. Happy communicating!

Mini Book Review

I bought the book in 2011 and read only half of the book. Until recently, I continued reading the book and found some good chapters to share.

书名:《倾听幸福的心声》 (Listen to the Voices of Happiness)

作者:吴若权 (Eric Wu)

Although the author is from Taiwan, this book is written in simplified Chinese language (简体). The book is about listening and has three parts with 35 chapters. When someone speaks, the other party listens. Thus, listening is as important as speaking. There are a lot of books on public speaking and non-verbal communication, but few books on listening. If you want to know how a good listening will help you in your daily life and you know how to read in Chinese language, this book is highly recommended.

Part 1 is about the general requirements for a good listening to occur. Different chapters in Part 2 fascinate me. Each chapter talks about different relationships in life. Take the example on the communication with teenagers; most of the time, parents and adults think that teenagers are still young and should listen to parents and adults. Have you ever thought that children have their own opinions? Instead of nagging and giving advice, why not we let the children and teenagers voice out their opinion? In the chapter, the author gives examples on how parents can listen better and encourage the children to say more.

Fast forward to 20 years later, when the children have grown up and the parents have grown old… Yes, we still face the same communication problem with our aging parents. Similarly, a good listening helps us to communicate better with our parents and elderly. Part 3 contains chapters about the problems that we face when we want to listen actively, chapters about how sometimes listening without talking is good and the last chapter ask us to listen to our own heart.

The examples given in the book are some common scenarios that you may face in real life. Sometimes, I wish the book can be thicker so that the author can put in more examples. Nonetheless, if the book were thicker, I would not have finished reading it.

Listening is an art, if you appreciate it and able to apply it in your life, you will have a better life. Happy reading and listening!


The book cover

Choice of Words

“Come here immediately!”

When you hear the above command, will you come here

(a) at once?

(b) after 5 seconds?

(c) after 5 minutes?

(d) after 5 hours?

Of course, you will come here at once because you understand that “immediately” means without delay.

Similarly, if you read the following,

“My email requires your immediate action.”

You will surely take action immediately to see to the matter mentioned in the email.

Nonetheless, do not overuse it. Once, somebody received a sms from his sister requiring an immediate action to read an email. He was out and the phone was low battery. He did not know what the matter was but he was very anxious to know, maybe it was a life-or-death matter? He almost got a heart attack, I believe. But when he opened his email, despite the low-batt noise, his sister only wanted him to print a document.

If it is not as urgent as a life-or-death matter, the sister may want to rephrase the sms to “Need your help, please check email when convenient.”

On the other hand, you may want to put a due date, “Please settle the matter by tomorrow.”

Be careful of your choice of words, somebody may get heart attack because of you.