Monday, March 31, 2008

singlish bastardisation

I am referring here to the mixing of Sinhala and English by Sinhala Radio. I am taking Shri FM as an example to make the point. I write this while I listen to Shri FM, so that I can use examples I hear as it is spoken. The DJ just used the word ‘shopping’, ‘call’, ‘sing’, ‘light’, ‘post’ etc.Frankly, I use far fewer English words when I speak in Sinhala. There are simple sinhala words that can be used instead, and so am not referring to technical terms, some of which do not have a sinhala word.

I am incredulous why people don’t indulge in the same level of questioning, I as primarily an English speaker am making. I have covered elsewhere the issue of the commonplace use of English everywhere one looks in the Island in signs, in a country where less than 5% can barely put two English words together to make a statement. So are the people being duped, into forgetting who they are and what they should be confronted in terms of signage.

It is important first not to make laws, but explain the objectives as all these media influence the future behavior of youth and once the damage is done it is difficult to correct. The subculture of youth are inevitably confronted with the extensive use of cell phones, and the constant English alerts on Dialog phones to an audience, which does not understand a word that is said, must be upsetting to say the least to a thinker. Is the sender (in this case Dialog) trying to send a subliminal message, “you had better learn English if you are to understand what we are telling you”. I have been in numerous occasions been asked to translate such messages.

The texting in the English alphabet (but in the sinhala language), which is now widespread uses phonetic spelling which is different to the correct use that is in the message, so the reader cannot even read it intelligibly let alone understand.

One unfortunate by product of the phonetic spelling is that when it comes to reading English, the problem becomes doubly insurmountable. Instances of misspelling are now so commonplace I despair. Only today I saw a bus sign spelling Denzil as Dencil as that is how it is written in Sinhala.

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