Communication

Forum: Hospital staff assumed I spoke Mandarin

Singapore is a multiracial nation where different languages and dialects are spoken. However, the working language is English.

That being the case, I was really taken aback when, during my recent stay at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, practically all the Chinese doctors and nurses spoke to me in Mandarin.

They looked at me, a Chinese patient in his 70s, and decided that I must understand Mandarin.

I had to raise my hand and tell them to stop, as I don't understand a word of Mandarin.

When I visited the hospital again, I stopped a nurse, showed her a text message in English on my mobile phone, and asked her in English for directions to the location indicated in the message. Again, the reply was given in Mandarin.

While I was in the ward, I also observed that when Chinese nurses or doctors talked to one another, they used Mandarin instead of English.

Neo Poh Goon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2021, with the headline 'Hospital staff assumed I spoke Mandarin'. Subscribe