“Linguistic Violence” in our society?


“MEDIACORP’S countdown to the new year, televised live on Channel 5, was a disappointing demonstration of linguistic violence in our society.

During a portion of the programme, I heard the hosts speaking exclusively in Mandarin, with no English subtitles on the screen.

Thinking my family had mistakenly tuned in to Channel 8, I rose to change the channel for an elderly relative who does not understand Mandarin.

Imagine my shock when I realised this was a national programme televised on an English-language channel.

The use of Mandarin in the programme showed a lack of consideration for the large number of Singapore residents of all races who do not understand Mandarin.

With or without subtitles, it is an egregious act of social exclusion to carry out a concert intended for the entire nation in a language associated with the majority race.

MediaCorp should apologise to its minority viewers and refrain from similar programming decisions in future.

It is contingent upon racial majorities everywhere to be conscious of our societal privilege and ability to alienate members of minority groups.

It is also our responsibility to strive against engendering such alienation.

Leow Hui Min (Ms)”

I do not watch television at all. For years, I have never watched television except for the occasional viewings at coffee-shops when I am out drinking with friends. On New Year Eve, I was at Gardens by the Bay with Van watching fireworks as I heard the live concert in the background though I could not view it from there. Even the music was not clear but I could still hear MCs speaking in Mandarin and English.

As such, I did not watch the entire New Year Eve concert at all. It was a non-event until I read about some bitter comments or complaints on FB. I also got an email from an enraged friend.

“Wah Lan! “Linguistic violence?” – what nonsense! See this letter to the press and the news article that follows. Are the non-Chinese “elites” complaining because they are irked by the use of Mandarin or is it a more deep-rooted xenophobic reaction to things Chinese, a fear that westernization (and its “values”) will be thinned out?”

I can’t agree more. Look at the letter written by Leow. Very well written and articulate. On the surface, it seems logical even though she is using powerful words like “linguistic violence!” She is asking for English subtitles whenever Mandarin is spoken in the event. She forgot that it is “live” concert. How to have subtitles if it is broadcast live? Why not ask for simultaneous live English, Malay and Tamil translations also just like on National Day Parades, or NDR – National Day Rally? It”s going to look comical when it’s supposed to an occasion of joyous spontaneous celebration. Really langgar! KNN!

“Actor-director and Cultural Medallion recipient Ivan Heng, 50, posted a strongly worded critique of the countdown show on Facebook that garnered more than 8,500 likes and more than 2,700 shares on the social media platform.

He wrote: “I just could not bear watching the MediaCorp Channel 5 Countdown. I kept flipping channels to doublecheck to see if I was watching Channel 8 or CCTV.”

That is even worst than the scurrilous allegation of “linguistic violence” – a well known local personality honored by the state sadly compared MediaCorp with CCTV – China State TV. Is it not grossly misleading? “Spreading lies” I would say with bizarre twisted logic. Now look at the facts unless “Life!” is also lying through their teeth!

“Life! checked the press release on the event and estimated that of the artists and groups who walked the red carpet, about 65 per cent were Chinese, 15 per cent were Malay, 11 per cent were Indian and 9 per cent were from other races.”

“It included a red-carpet segment, song-and- dance performances from local and foreign performers including British-Irish boyband The Wanted and American-Taiwanese star Wang Lee Hom, and a Walk Of Fame featuring MediaCorp stars from past to present, such as Moses Lim and Zoe Tay.

The hosts were a mix of actors and DJs including Gurmit Singh, Joanne Peh, Bryan Wong, The Muttons (Justin Ang and Vernon A), Jean Danker, Dasmond Koh and Vivian Lai.”

Why did they – the minority elites of our society resort to such blatant lies to tell the whole world just to advance their whatever agenda? Their hatred of SAPs, Chinese related things etc. Yes, my enraged friend is correct to say that those English elites in our society are feeling threatened by the rise of China as a superpower. The dominating influence of China on the world stage is getting on their nerves cuz they only see the world with one eye – through their westernized English world view. Unlike most of us – the majority in our society see the world with both eyes open since we are bi-lingual. We understand issues in better perspective. To say that our New Year Eve countdown concert is similar to CCTV is a symptom of such manifestations. If you do not agree with my personal opinion, I really do not know what to say. I’ve quoted the breakdown of races and languages from “Life!” to debunk such mischievous claims.

I hope that those minority mono-lingual elites in our society are not making use of the majority to make wild allegations based on their own insecure xenophobic perceptions. They are actually the minority inciting the silent majority – whether Chinese or other races to exert pressure on our local media which is baseless cuz their programs DID actually reflect the actual racial representations! It has been the case all those past years including last year. It will also be the case in future. Every race or culture will definitely have its own space in this multi-racial country.

I have given you the facts. Hopefully readers are able to judge for themselves and do not be easily misled by those one-eye xenophobics’ “half truths and blatant lies!


About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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17 Responses to “Linguistic Violence” in our society?

  1. 国樑 KL says:

    Fully agree that such uncultured behaviour from the “monolingual” group would endanger the society more than anything else. From the two names mentioned in the article, I would imagine that they are Chinese blood. If they can criticise to the extent like throwing away their mother tongue, what else can they not throw away? Aren’t they from the upbringing of the government system?


  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 3 Jan 2014 | The Singapore Daily

  3. Commie says:

    Before taking sides, I suggest you watch the programme first. It’s not about the percentage of racial distribution of the artist and groups but percentage of language use throughout the show. Yes, they were 15% Malays and 11% Indians dancing in the back ground to a Mandarin song.


    • Anonymous says:

      I suppose its due of practicability and that Ch8 was also live telecasting simultaneously.
      We certainly do not want the show to be compered in all four languages word for word for an entertainment show like this
      I hope its not the monolingual English-educated minority like Heng who are imposing their demand on the biligual majority using the excuse of over usage of Mandarin in the show.


    • I hardly watch TV nowadays, but I decided to watch the repeat telecast to see for myself. Frankly, I feel that Ivan Heng’s comments are a bit uncalled for, but the on the whole, I too felt that I was watching Ch 8. It’s not a big deal for me, but it may well offend people who have other expectations.


  4. Anonymous says:

    I totally lost respect for Ivan Heng with his provocative unstantiated post, inciting the minoritie with supportive comments.
    A harmless show has been turned into something equivalent of unfair treatment and prejudice against the minority races.
    He is not representative of Singapore as he claims
    He is nothing but a WOG and a banana


  5. Tan Alfred says:

    Their names may be Chinese but I have the impression that they are not comfortable in that language, hence felt marginalized.

    When I was younger, my form teacher who was Eurasian by the way, told the class that it would really be shameful if one is not comfortable with one’s mother tongue. Have you ever seen an Englishman not being able to speak or understand English.

    These two xenophobic dinosaurs will have to face the harsh reality one of these days that if they are not comfortable in the Chinese language, they will be worst than pariahs of which they are already one.

    It is one thing to comment and air their unhappiness in a nice way. It is quite another thing to utter vitriolic nonsense just to hide their inadequacies.


  6. “Linguistic violence”? Oh gosh. 小题大作。

    However, gintai, we do have to be mindful of our fellow citizens in the racial minority groups. It’s easy to overlook their needs. We do need to take an extra effort to make sure they’re not left out. I like Life!’s response in that they rightfully pointed out there’s a fair mixed of artistes from different racial and language background and even nationality.


  7. Well said. I agree with your concern. We need to consider others’ sensitivity also.


  8. Genghis says:

    This blog is quite a surprise from you of all people, Gintai.

    Ivan Heng is Peranakan. He would speak Malay and English;
    possibly some dialect, like Hokkien.

    It would be good if you saw the show and could determine
    for yourself how much of it is ”Chinese”, before criticising
    those viewers – minority groups and Chinese who don’t speak
    Chinese – for being disturbed by what they saw, and labelling
    them xenophobes and intolerant.

    Do note that most MediaCorp stars are from the CHINESE
    language channel.
    Do note also that the breakdown in racial composition does
    Not indicate the amount of airtime a race, and its culture and
    language, actually had.
    Do note too that the show marked an occasion – the first day
    of the year – celebrated by ALL races.
    Do note as well that the show was aired on an ENGLISH
    language channel.

    You might understand others’ feelings better if you could get
    a taste of what it is like being part of a minority group in
    Singapore; of being subtly, and sometimes blatantly, sidelined.
    It is like being in a group where the members insist on
    speaking a language you don’t understand – even though they
    are well aware you don’t understand what they are saying.

    Consideration for the fact that non-Chinese and some Chinese
    do not speak Chinese would be much appreciated. Theeir
    criticism of the show has Nothing to do with denigrating Chinese

    It has everything to do with disregard and disrespect for others.
    With thoughtfulness. With wanting their country to be INCLUSIVE,
    to use an overdone word. This is particularly important in a
    multi-racial, multicultural society.

    It is pretty troubling that, after all these years, you still see yourself
    basically as just a Chinese – and not a Singaporean….


    • Sgcynic says:

      Excellent, balanced retort. Support.


    • I’ve watched the repeat telecast and if I could help it, I would put the show in Ch 8 and not Ch 5. Personally, I’m quite comfortable with the amount of Chinese being used. However, if I were to put myself in the shoes of those who don’t speak Mandarin, I would be a bit worried about how they might feel having such a programme on Ch 5.


      • Sgcynic says:

        Welcome your comments which are based on your judgement after experiencing first hand watching of the show.


  9. Paul Ananth says:

    I am a Singaporean, still serving national service at the age of 48+. If I wanted to live in a Mandarin speaking country, I would have moved to China. Singapore is a multiracial, multi-cultural country. We non-Chinese are also Singaporean human beings. I hope that some of your readers will attempt to understand that. It would be nice for all four official languages to be shown on national television one day. We can only hope


    • Since it’s Ch 5, I don’t think anyone should complain about it not having Chinese, Malay or Tamil. A show with all 4 races performing in English shouldn’t offend anyone.


  10. M Tye says:

    Ivan Heng stayed home and watched TV on new year’s eve? Pathetic isn’t it? His comments were probably a reflection of his sad existence. Cultural medallion winner some more. Tsk, tsk!


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