Re: Migrants should be required to take English courses
- From: achtung <konon@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2007 01:23:43 -0800 (PST)
The chinese tutors can afford Condo and Mercs
On Dec 4, 5:00 pm, Black Smith <bsm...@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On Mon, 03 Dec 2007 02:13:14 +0000, truth wrote:
Comment: I support this. While I was in Singapore recently, I came
across so many young Chinese looking service staff who cannot even speak
a word of English. Singapore is so different now. Some areas got the
feel of some city in Mainland China.
Migrants should be required to take English courses
On 4 occasions in one month, Murali Sharma came across service
who couldn't speak a word of English, only Mandarin Chinese. Writing to
the Straits Times, he said this occurred twice at top hotels where he
attended wedding banquets, at an upmarket Chinese restaurant and a
He didn't say so in his letter, but Singaporeans would know that
Chinese-speaking person of working age didn't know English at all, most
likely he or she would be a new immigrant from China. Possibly Malaysia
where some Chinese speak only Chinese and Malay, but such newcomers from
our neighbour are nowadays outnumbered by the flood from China.
In the two five-star hotels, the staff were probably temps. In
past, they came from the polytechnics. I wonder what has happened to
this regular pool. Do the students no longer need the money or want to
work? Or are the restaurants in the five-star hotels tapping a much
cheaper labour market? If this is the case, the hotels are
short-changing their customers.
The situation in the upmarket restaurant was similar.
I wonder if these staff are selected on how low a salary they
accept. One could not get a beer, warm water or a change of a chopstick
which had dropped on the floor. The staff were quick, eager and always
said 'yes' but the service was bad.
-- Straits Times print forum, 1 Dec 2007, Service Staff must
The solution that Sharma argued for was this: The authorities
ensure that locals are employed. Otherwise our reputation as a shoppers'
and gourmets' paradise will go down the drain.
I disagree. Commercial businesses should have the freedom to hire
they wish from the resident pool in Singapore and such foreigners as
permitted by our immigration policies. They should of course be aware
that hiring people who cannot adequately communicate with customers
would hurt their business reputation, so speaking up as Sharma did is
the right thing to do. But to insist that all service jobs in the retail
and F&B sectors be reserved for Singaporeans is too dirigiste a way to
solve the problem.
Instead, I would propose that all migrants -- and that means
who receives a long-stay pass whether as a working person or dependent
-- should be required to take a basic English language course. I'll
expand on this later, but first, let me share an experience I had just
* * * * *
I had made the mistake of arranging a dinner with friends without
making a reservation. It was a weekday evening, and I had not expected
the restaurant to be close to full, but I guess with Singapore getting
ever more crowded, I should have known better.
Fortunately I arrived about half an hour early and had a bit of
to try to sort it out with the maitre d' at the door.
"Table for 4, you said?" He was speaking to himself as he looked
around the dining room.
There were two tables free, but each only sat two. Unfortunately,
table between these two free ones was occupied. though the couple there
had only just arrived and had barely seated themselves. "Maybe I can
move them to the adjacent table and join the two tables for you," he
I looked at him with a little bemused suspicion. Was it really
policy to move diners like that? Wouldn't they feel offended to be
inconvenienced thus? On the other hand, I could be selfish and focus on
how that would solve my problem.
He paused for a while more, pondering some other possible
and looking around the restaurant again to see which other table might
be finishing soon. I appreciated what he was trying to do. At many other
places, they'd just put your name down on the waiting list and tell you
they'd call you when a table was free, with no effort put into finding
an immediate solution. But not this young man.
That was when a middle-aged woman walked up to his desk and asked
something in a language that sounded like Chinese, but not one that I
could understand. If it was Chinese, it was a very strange dialect. The
maitre d', who was Malay, naturally understood not a word.
He looked to me for help.
"Sheme?" I asked her. What?
She repeated what she had first said, but it was still
incomprehensible. However, the fact that she probably understood "sheme"
enough to repeat herself meant that she was speaking some form of
Chinese, not Lao or Mongolian or Martian. It must be a dialect that is
new to Singapore, like Hunanese or what's spoken in Zhejiang, Shaanxi or
any number of provinces that historically, few Singaporeans originated
"Ni keyi shuo putonghua, ma?" Can you speak Mandarin? I asked her.
She then said something new, but it still sounded strange. After
more try, I figured I could catch one phrase. It sounded like "xi shou
jian", though the tones were all off. Nonetheless, "xi shou jian" would
make sense, so I pointed her to the nearest restroom in the shopping
"You get a lot of this kind of thing, manning the desk out here?"
asked the maiitre d'.
"Yeah, sometimes," he said. "A bit awkward for me, but it must
hard for these newcomers to live in Singapore." He was being so
diplomatic, he deserved a medal.
* * * * *
It is only to be expected that as immigration increases,
tends to rise. Linguistic insult of the kind that Sharma or the maitre
d' experienced can exacerbate such trends.
That said, most migrants who come to work in Singapore will know
English, otherwise they won't be able to function at their jobs. This is
not just in respect of the professionals and senior technical staff;
even the blue-collar workers from China, India, Bangladesh, Burma and
Thailand speak some kind of pidgin English among them. How else would
they understand their supervisor, or co-ordinate their work with each
other? The Chinese tile-layer would need English to tell the Bangla
labourer to bring him more cement, for example.
The problem tends to be found in those who do not come here to
most typically, the family dependents. These include the "study mamas"
from China who enroll their children in Singapore schools for a better
education than they can get in China, and who then get long-term
residency permits to stay here to look after the kids. Other family
dependents include wives and parents of managers or professionals.
Quite often, they look for temporary or part time jobs; today we
them in many shops and food establishments.
As Singapore increases our intake of migrants together with the
emphasis on getting the better qualified ones to put down roots, we are
likely to see more and more family members being brought over. This
problem can only grow.
The steady inroads made by the Chinese language in social and
life not only reverses 40 years of nation-building, a major plank of
which is the adoption of English as a neutral platform for communication
in order that that no ethnic group will feel disadvantaged, it can be
seriously alienating to our ethnic minorities in a very personal way.
Encountering such moments makes them feel acutely marginalised in what
is really their own country.
You might have noticed in Sharma's story that on two occasions he
attending a wedding banquet at Chinese restaurants, evidently to
celebrate with his Chinese friends. It must surely be important for
Singapore that such cross-ethnic participation continue. Thus, it would
be terribly regressive if an increasing frequency of linguistic
alienation ends up discouraging such social harmonics.
There are also public safety issues. Paramedics, firemen and
officers tend to have a significant number of non-Chinese among them. In
an emergency, how are they going to communicate with those who don't
understand a word of English?
"Give me your son. I'll carry him. You crawl under the smoke.
Get down. Crawl. You don't know what crawl is?"
"Close the door behind you. Do you understand me? Close it, close
Don't let the fire spread."
"Where does it hurt? Don't try to speak, just point. Keep
the oxygen, just point where it hurts. You know what 'point' is?"
We need to make greater efforts to maintain English as the
inter-ethnic link language. The first step, as I mentioned above, should
be to require all who receive a long-stay visa to take a basic English
course. Extension of the visa beyond the first year should be contingent
on passing a test of spoken English.
In case they lose it all after a while from lack of use, further
extensions of the long-stay visa or permanent residency (e.g. every 3 or
5 years) should also be contingent on retaking and passing the test.
Besides giving new
read more >>- Hide quoted text -
- Show quoted text -
- Migrants should be required to take English courses
- From: truth
- Re: Migrants should be required to take English courses
- From: Black Smith
- Migrants should be required to take English courses
- Prev by Date: Re: M0CCA.COM : Models for Ads
- Next by Date: Re: Indian chauvinism and racism
- Previous by thread: Re: Migrants should be required to take English courses
- Next by thread: The cost of living in Singapore has risen yet again