Thursday, September 3, 2015

Singapore: The Future of Language?

Rather than being pure denizens of one linguistic world, Singaporeans reside, occasionally uncomfortably, in two. As a native English speaker who lives in China and speaks Chinese at home, being uncomfortably poised between two languages is pretty much the story of my life. So that’s why I find Singapore strangely comfortable–because I’m suddenly surrounded by many more people who are in my situation.

And if we think that the world of the future will be largely dominated by the superpowers of America and China, which seems to be the way things have been heading lately, then this kind of English-Chinese bilingualism could become much, much more common. This was one of the fun aspects of the future imagined in the wonderful science-fiction TV show Firefly, in which the characters occasionally tossed snippets of Chinese (without subtitles or explanation) into otherwise normal English dialogue.
Except, alas, the actors' Chinese pronunciation sucked.

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