Goodness gracious me!

Regular listeners to the afternoon show on TraxxFm (1-4pm) would be familiar with this song with Sophia Loren as the patient and Peter Sellers as a doctor, an Indian one at that with a peculiar Indian accent. Then, there is S.H. Tan who had a hilarious anecdote about a Chinese fruit seller at Petaling Street and a Malay customer. Furthermore, some of you may know the Malay stand-up comic, Datuk Jamali Shadat, who shot to fame when he emerged 1st runner-up in Bakat TV 1970 (or was it 1971?) . He would have the audience in stitches, speaking in all kinds of accents from the various communites in the country. And of course, there’s the one-time very popular TV sit-com, “Mind Your Language”. Remember “Mr. Blown” (pronounced Bla – uan)? All in good fun, I would say…and definitely not intended to offend or insult any sector of the population, but some people saw it fitting to impose a ban on the speaking of Malay in any other accent.  Anyway, that is not the concern of this post.

Despite being an English Language teacher before, I, for one, would not insist on R.P. or the Queen’s English even though there are people who would speak as if they are gargling with marbles or the mouth is stuffed with mashed potatoes. Some students (young upstarts!) would do that, probably because of their home environment or for other reasons known only to them. I would let them speak that way as long as they were comfortablle with it AND as long as they did not make any structural or grammatical errors. Then I would snap their heads off, barking, “You speak like you’ve been living overseas all your life and you don’t even know the simple tenses???”

Whatever it is, there can be no denying that in many cases, a person’s mastery of a language may be affected by his/her mother tongue. Here in Sibu with the predominant Foochow population, it comes as no surprise that there is some negative interference when it comes to the speaking of the English Language. In Form One, the poor kids have to wrestle with Shakespeare’s “Life’s Brief Candle”…and imagine them having to recite, “…,,” which in Foochow, means “No more, no more, no more!”

And what do you think they mean when they appear at the door and ask, “May I khang nging, please? (“Khang nging” in Foochow means “to see”), I would retort, “Khang nging no miang?” (What do you want to see?) The truth of the matter is they want to COME IN but somehow, they have a problem saying “come”. A college lecturer suggests that in their dialect, every word ends with a vowel (mouth open) so they cannot handle a word for which they have to close the mouth at the end. As for ending words with “ng”, the lecturer says that a look at their surnames may explain the whole thing – Wong, Ting, Ling and so on.

Unfortunately, as their English teacher, I had to try and rectify the problem and I assure you it was no easy task. However, I would think that language is for communication and once communication is established, what does it matter? Only when communication breaks down, therein lies the problem like this story that I heard some time ago.

The English would pronounce “no” in a manner that it sounds something like “nau” while Asians would just say ‘no’ as the spelling dictates.   So once, there was this Chinese pilot; as his aircraft was approaching Heathrow Airport, he contacted the control tower saying, “Lequestin permission to rand?” The runways were congested, so the guy at the control tower replied, “No! No!” The pilot heard, “Now! Now!” and landed…..

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

19 thoughts on “Goodness gracious me!”

  1. STP, u only listen to TraxxFm? There only got this one English radio channel izit? All the other channels like MixFM or Light&Easy tarak?

    TraxxFM used to be Radio 4, right??? I wanna ask, is Angie Ng still there ah? Hehe…

    Actually ‘khang’ to yr blog veli gud… can learn Foochow with STP! Yippie!

    Yup, it was Radio 4. Can get all those stations in Kuching only, so here we don’t have a choice! One thing’s good! No adverts!…Angie Ng long gone lah!!! All new ones now!

  2. Hahahahaha! Nging-teresting post! yes, that ‘ng’ slang is uniquely foochow, well if you listen to foochow speaking mandarin, it is the same. jien dan = jien dang. ji tan = ji tang. :p different dialects with their own way of pronounciations. i despise those try to be more ‘english’ by putting up slang, yeah sounds more like their mouth stuffed with mashed potato hahaha! how apt! er, i speak english like a malay, not chinese. lol!

    Tak rasa pun? Oh? It affects their Mandarin too? That’s interesting! I didn’t know that! Aduh! “despise” is a very strong word! It takes all kinds to make the world mah! So just let them be!

  3. haiya.. mo ning ngai to deal with such students… ha ha, wanna know something, my English tuition teacher taught me using hokkien.. ha ha… fortunately, i still am English literate

    Your brother came to my tuition class but u didnt! Sangat sombong!!!

  4. Peter Sellers did a very good impression of Indian English. Hehe.. I tot it was an Indian singing. Hey STP, r u teaching foochow now? Funny coz my students only speak mandarin eventho they r foochows.. even amg themselves. But i never made fun of their foochow accent the way u did. Hehe.. but in other ways, definitely. LOL. All for the sake of improving them. 😛

    Hahahahaha…you’d never get out of that place alive if you did! Age has its advantage and size does matter!…I could get away with murder! Yup! The students speak Foochow at home;in school, it’s all Mandarin. That seems to be the predominant culture these days…and when u bring them for elocution competitions at state-level, they stick out like a sore thumb compared to those from Kuching, Miri or even Sri Aman, unlike in the early 90s.

  5. Great.. I’m picking up bits and pieces of Mandarin at work and now Hokkien in here .. now if only those comments comes with a translation like your post, suituapui.. I’m having a hard time understanding the comments in regards to this post LOL

    I was using a sprinkling of Foochow in this post, but actually, I don’t speak the dialect much myself, mostly Hokkein.

  6. my bro? ha ha, really? i didn’t know. was he with mac when he went to your class?

    Mac was my student in school but there were others like Clement and Gustyne…and those from his school. Gosh…I saw Ervina in church the other day. She’s grown into one hell of a lady (wolf whistles)!!!!

  7. Aiseh…serious? There cant get any other radio station??? Kesian ler…I listen to hitz most of the time. Traxx for “that time” only. LOL.

    As for ppl speaking english like mangada-mengada the slang…don’t despise them, but I can’t stand them…haha…

    Nope…unless you want to listen to RedeFm from Kuching and that guy who has been in a coma for the last 30 years or so – Coma Smith. Dunno why he has changed his name to TSA or sumthing like dat. But sometimes, his selection of songs, mostly oldies, is a welcome change (despite the fact that he has been playing them for the past 30 years! LOL!!! Good songs never die!)

    Wah! U listen to Hitz? Ur music scene must be very canggih one lah? When travellin, I’d listen to Mix or Lite & Easy…but it seems they play almost the same songs all the time, so I get bored after a while.

  8. he said he was never in your tuition leh… but was in SHS only a short period.. u sure u not mistaken him with someone else?ha ha, anyway, for that short period you taught him, he enjoyed it. he was one of those who stayed in shs b4 going for utm

    Oh? Then u’re not jude’s brother? Of course lah…my class, mesti lah enjoy wan! Wakakakaka!!

  9. COMA SMITH haha…. mannn.. i haven’t heard his name for super long already. last time my mom and dad always listen to him punya.. yucks…

    Hahahahaha!!! Ur parents’ favourite mah! Maklumlah orang tua!….Me? U ask ur brother lah! When we went clubbing, he shook his head when he heard me singing along to LInkin’ Park/Jay-z…..”What the hell are you waiting for???” ROTFLMAO!!!!

  10. Listen to hitz=canggih? Haha…well,can say lah..listen to the most newest songs. LOL! That’s why I know about Finally before Mag+Pat…hehe…

    Btw, if u really wanna know my taste in music, check out my about page…a long section on that…though I think it needs to be updated…soon lah. Maybe. 🙂

    Waisehman!!! Canggih konon! Me oso canggih! Hahahahahaha!!!! Rite now, I like One Republic’s Stop & Stare, James Morrison’s The pieces don’t fit anymore…and one song I never get tired of is Blue October’s HATE ME. The 2 djs think it’s a horrible song cos of the lyrics but I like!!!

  11. you said ‘I would think that language is for communication and once communication is established, what does it matter?’

    very often that’s true. 🙂 but er, somehow the conversation will have no flair.. and there will be plenty of ‘lag’ waiting for the other person to structure their words if they can’t form proper sentences. Dialect seem to create that problem of speaking without grammar, and proper sentence structure.

    Anyway, *high 5* love one republic’s stop and stare and James morrison’s pieces don’t fit anymore. 😀

    Well, if that’s the case, then the poor command of the language hampers communication. But if e.g. we listen to those Bollywood stars speaking English (on that Koffee with Karan show, for instance), despite their accent, they’re very fluent and accurate and we can understand them without any problem at all. Hmmmm…I’ve got a very “young” taste in music, eh? LOL!

  12. “You speak like you’ve been living overseas all your life and you don’t even know the simple tenses???”

    …. hahahahahaha… darn right!

    With my students, I would say.”I’m ALWAYS right!” And you can imagine the expression on their faces!!! Hahahahahaha!!!! I’m horrible, am I not?

  13. Foochow??? Geez.. how am I going to differenciate all these dialects?? LOL

    Oh no, I think I better tell you now that I don’t speak as good as I write in English .. haha so if we meet up someday, please don’t scold me too much … I didn’t have you as my teacher … LOL..

    Hahahahaha!!! I’m not conversant in the dialect too, just Hokkein! Gosh! U scared already hor!!! Don’t worry! Ask bongkersz and cibol! I’m very nice….ROTFLMAO!

  14. Hey, you should play the “Guess the song and singer from the given lyrics” game. Winner can go
    to Ruby with you!

    Cannot! These days they can just google the lyrics…and habis bankrupt saya!!! But have u noticed that for my posts, except for a couple of the earlier ones I’ve used the titles of songs??? That’s what they call “chiak pa bo su cho!” LOL!!

  15. but he went to sacred heart for a while, less than a month

    For Form 6, I guess! They would come to hang around until they got a positive reply from their many applications and went off somewhere to further their studies.

  16. lol sir! got ur own blog now ah.. wah after retire so nice hor… all the world and time to urself.. enjoy life there huh? and that khang ing jokes lol damn funny! heard it many times from you in class!
    btw, have you heard of this funny commercial by Berlitz, a language tutoring website ? it goes like this

    The captain of a sinkin ship calls up the German coast guard for help

    Captian : Mayday Mayday!!! We are sinking! We are sinking!
    *radio integerence*
    Coast Guard : Hello ?? Hello ??
    Captain : We are sinking! We are sinking!
    *radio integerence*
    Coast Guard : What are you sinking about??

    Lol!!! I was like, that ship sure habis ..

    Hahahahahaha!!!! I sink sat is a gud one!!!

  17. That day I spoke to you on the phone also you sounded very foochow bah….LOL

    …Yakah? Must be in my blood. I memang Foochow, just can’t speak the dialect!!! U think I speak like my mouth stuffed with mashed potatoes meh? I no study overseas one, over river got lah!!! Hahahahahahaha!!!!!

  18. if traffic controller wants to avert pilot from landing, the message would be “Negative to land. Repeat negative” instead of saying “No, NO”.

    OK…you’re in that line? Thanks for the clarification. This is just a joke I heard a long time ago about the (ab)use of language, so no ill intent!!! Your first time here, I see! Thanks for dropping by.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own. For food and other reviews, you may email me at

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