Scenes 2 and 9

Studies have shown that the language you think in affects the way you view the world, and even how you comprehend abstract concepts like time. That the supposed global lingua franca is English certainly plays into the hands of our former colonial overlords, to whom we have to seek constant approval in the form of our GCSE ‘O’ or ‘A’ Levels, or even in the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music examinations. That the former goes a long way to shaping our lives’ prospects should come as no surprise to anyone, but the very nature of having our intellects determined by Cambridge, in a linguistic medium that does not favour the large percentage of Singaporeans for whom English is not a first language, often goes unquestioned. The same is true for anyone who has learnt a musical instrument under the ABRSM; we are all familiar with having our musicality judged not by the actual sounds we produced, but by whether or not we have a grade 8. Yes, there are advantages to having a common (colonial) language in a society as diverse as ours, but perhaps we should acknowledge also that those with a good command of it are usually so because of historical factors and thus have an inbuilt headstart in life.

In Scene 9, Shakespeare is again quoted but this time not in a paraphrase. We turn the language of our colonisers to our advantage for once, and urge everyone to delight in an isle that is full of noises.

Scene 2: Lingua Franca

Stop me if I’m going too fast
I don’t mean to bombast
I’m just playing by the rules of the game

Ostensibly a lingua franca
Makes everything easier
And everybody should comprehend whyThe intricacies of our introspective
Active voices override the passive

It bridges race and religion
Oh and not to mention
It’s advantageous economically

So pardon my French if it’s all Greek to you
A little Dutch courage might help you to
Accept my apology since I’ll write no eulogy for my English

Saints and cynics could see
This imperial legacy
Is double-edged national policy

A collaborative elite
But on the other hand, darling, they’ll just say that it’s pragmatic

And if you happen to be better
In your ethnic vernacular

Congratulations on your culture
But to play the game you’ve got to
Join the speak good English campaign

So pardon my French if it’s all Greek to you
It’s Chinese whispers that I’m trying to
Entrench my authority over the majority with my English

Bite your mother tongue
Bite your mother tongue
Bite your mother tongue
You’ve got to bite your mother tongue

To raise your SES
Raise your SES
Raise your SES
You’ve got to
Bite your mother tongue

Pretend a cat’s got your tongue
A cat’s got your tongue
A cat’s got your tongue
So bite your mother tongue
Bite your mother tongue
Bite your mother tongue
You’ve got to bite your mother tongue

Poetry is a luxury we can’t afford, he said
As he read sonnets to his wife in bed
Dress your English in an accent
So everyone will think you’re eloquent
To ears of stature, creoles jar
Don’t punctuate your sentences with a “lah”
Because “lah” is a note to follow “soh”

The “soh” “si” – ology of language suggests that societies are reflected in the dynamics of linguistics
In such a situation, it would seem to imply
That Singapore’s society is leveled in state-sanctioned demography dependent on historically determined superficialities like the language you speak or the nuances of the language you speak
And something as innocuous as the fact, that I know the meaning of the word “innocuous” means I have a headstart in life, and that really isn’t fair.

But we’ve internalized the logic of the powers-that-be, who by the way, attained these advantages as collaborators in a crown colony.
So if your English is good, it means your intellect is able, your place in university justifiable, and your person suitable for stature.
And since I’m better in my colonizer’s tongue than in my mother’s, I’ll have to offer a mea culpa, ladies and gentlemen, that this show will be performed mostly in English.

Scene 9: Be Not Afeard

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again. And then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.