The sound of different languages is like the old Singapore, we mustn’t lose confidence and descend into xenophobia, says Ho Ching

we can be kind and give room to others who are just trying to earn a living no different from us ho ching

In a post responding to the incident in which Amy Tashiana shamed a FairPrice staff for being unable to speak English, Mdm Ho Ching  said ‘the strength of a Singaporean is our open mindedness to accept all creeds, colours and cultures as equals’.

We accept we are not a perfect people, and we recognise that we have much to learn from others from all over the world,” she wrote. 

“Walk around Marina Bay to enjoy the breeze and hear the laughter and chatter of friends and families in all languages,” she said, “and imagine that would be how Singapore sounded in the old days, with all manners of Chinese, Indian Persian, Arabic, as well as regional traders from around us, and Europeans from afar, all doing business, making a living, and some making a home here over time.”

“Don’t shame others for not speaking the language we know. Learn instead as others learn,” she advised. 

Being Singaporan is more than just a birthright or a passport, she said. 

It is to know that we must make a living through making friends all over the world.

It means to carry ourselves with discipline, respect and humility.

“Brash bravado, and boastful bullying, have no place in the Singapore soul.”


Frustrations can arise when the frontline staff you are dealing with struggles with English or our National language

Ms Ho Ching pointed out a similar situation that can arise in cafes run by the special needs where the frontline staff may be deaf or mute, or physically disabled in other ways like muscular atrophy. Some may have invisible challenges like autism. 

“So we try to either point to pictures for our orders or learn sign language to order black coffee or milk tea,” she said. 

In Japan, there are cafes where the frontline staff are seniors who could have dementia. Customers are prepped to expect mistakes and forgotten orders. 

We can try to make the world a friendlier and more welcoming place especially for those who are disadvantaged in different ways, and try to give others a chance, Ho Ching said. 

It helps if we can also take setbacks with patience and give ourselves a little lift in life with some humour.


We are minorities in many ways.

Most of us are not linguistically talented, Ho Ching continued. 
All of us are minorities in many ways, she said. 
For example, there remains many old Singaporeans who don’t speak Mandarin, Malay, Tamil or English. They speak their own mother tongue, whether it be a Chinese dialect or other Indian languages. 
Then there are also older folks who speak only Malay, Tamil, or their own mother dialect.
In this sense, they are minorities in many different ways. 
“The Hakka grandmother, or the Punjabi grandfather who are monolingual are minorities, sometimes unable to converse with their grandchildren or great grandchildren who lost their mother tongue,” said Ho Ching. 
“I have seen women talk to reach others in their respective dialect – one talking in Cantonese and the other in Hokkien. And they couldn’t speak the other’s language but with help of hand gestures and similar sounding words here and there, they got by,” she added. 

The main thing is whether we can be kind and give room to others who are just trying to earn a living, no different from us.

The sound of different languages spoken feels like the old Singapore

Ho Ching pointed out that we are luckier than many others in the world because we have many threads of languages, cuisines, cultures, and customs among us, not just today, but long before independence.
“I walk along Orchard Road and hear all sorts of languages as families and couples walk by, and feel like I am walking through the streets of old old Singapore,” she said. 
“That diversity and acceptance of diversity is one of our core strengths, because Singapore can find a good living by being connected with and being part of a bigger wider world.”
People like to do business with friends, and people they like.
“We mustn’t lose our own self confidence, and descend into xenophobia like we see in many other places in the world.”


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