In Singapore, the racial groups are categorized into their ‘dialect groups’, meaning their ‘ethnic’ groups. It is stated that “every Singaporean has an officially allocated ‘dialect group’ which normally corresponds to the paternal ancestral language, but does not necessarily to anything in the individual’s personal experience” (English in new cultural contexts, p. 117). It is mainly the Chinese and Indians who have dialect groups and this is reflected in their birth certificates. The main dialect groups for Chinese are Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese, Cantonese and Hakka. Of all these, Hokkien is the most dominant dialect in Singapore. As for the Indians, the dialect groups are mainly Tamil, Malayalee, Sikh, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Sinhalese, Hindi and others (Study Guide-Block 1, p. 23).
The native Chinese dialect refers to either the dialect spoken by both parents or only by one of them. On the other hand, the dominant Chinese dialect refers to the dialect spoken by the majority of the Chinese. It is often adopted by the minority groups as the lingua franca. In 1970, 42.2 per cent of the Chinese population were Hokkien, 22.4 per cent Teochew and Cantonese, Hakka and Hainanese each constituting about 17 per cent (19). These dialects are spoken mainly in their colloquial form though some have ‘implied’ formal standard varieties such as Amoy Hokkien. Indian and Malay languages have many formal and more colloquial sub-varieties. Usually, more dialects have been acquired either because the individual’s spouse comes from a different dialect group or the dialect is spoken by their peers. Although dialects are the ethnical languages of our heritage, it is not enough for us to solely rely on them as the main language in our lives. The English language is rapidly gaining its status as the lingua franca of today’s world and is essential for international communication and business. It serves as the bridge between national groups and language communities. Thus, we need to consistently keep up with this rapidly advancing society and pick up English as our language for survival and communication with the world. It is thus important that while we preserve the knowledge of our individual dialects, we must also practice the use of English in our daily lives.
Context of situation
Understanding different contexts of situation is important for effective communication to take place. It enables us to adopt the appropriate language and style of speaking that language to enhance mutual understanding between parties. In Singapore, most of us use two or three languages on a daily basis and one of those languages is English. Therefore, the understanding of different contexts of situation is important in this multiracial society. English is used by all ethnic groups in the domains of education, business, domestic purposes and religions. It can even be used in religious and cultural activities that are linked to particular ethnic groups. For example, English may be used in mosque-based activities or even in Chinese religious auctions. It is thus difficult to pinpoint contexts of situation where English is required. The same applies to choices between Standard English and Colloquial Singapore English (English in new cultural contexts, p. 123). Nevertheless, there are formal and educational contexts that require Standard English in this English-pursuing world. For example, we will use Standard English when giving a formal speech, and also when we speak to our lecturers. On the other hand, some contexts of situation call for the use of Colloquial Singapore English. This is seen when we are among close friends in a social setting as well as when we are with our family. Likewise, when ordering a plate of carrot cake in a hawker centre, we do...