Forum: Educate the young on origins of borrowed terms

Some people may not know that certain phrases in Chinese dialects are borrowed from other languages.

For instance, the phrase "mana ooh?" is derived from the Malay word "mana" (where) and the Hokkien word "ooh" (got). In Singlish, it is "Where got such a thing?" (Is there such a thing?).

The term "loh-tee" which some Chinese use is from the Indian/Malay "roti".

The Mandarin "momo chacha" is from the Malay term "bubur cha cha", which refers to a coconut milk dessert.

Simplification eased pronunciation for the less literate back then.

For a long time, educated Europeans called China's capital, Beijing, "Peking". Some Western tongues still prefer "carry-oki" (karaoke) and "kuh-rat-tee" (karate).

Newcomers may call Bedok "Bee-dok". Singapore's locally recorded train announcements, in English, pronounce "Bedok" like an English speaker does, sounding the "k" sharply.

In the Malay language, consonants are not aspirated. For example, in "Bukit Batok", the letter "t" sounds like "d" and "k" sounds like "g".

English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil are official languages, so Malay words do not need to be enunciated in a Western manner in announcements.

Food names and other borrowed words in signs should revert to their original spelling.

Corrupted usage need not be disrespectful. But impressions count.

Borrowers need to appreciate what is co-opted and from whom. Not just what others have borrowed from them.

Usage oversights, over time, can compound obvious and subliminal slights.

Educating every child on this pays homage, and displaces cultural pride with humility.

Enhancing intercultural trust is a personal responsibility, person to person, day to day. Don't outsource it to the authorities. Own it.

Desiree Chan Si Ni

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