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Balancing modern influences and traditional values in communication

This letter writer reflects on the impact of Western media on Singapore’s communication styles, advocating for a blend of clarity, respect, and traditional caution in both personal and professional exchanges to avoid misunderstandings and promote positive interactions.



by Teo Kueh Liang

I read with interest the TODAY’s Commentary, “Mind your F’s and S’s? Swearing in the workplace is a grey area, but some lines shouldn’t be crossed” (February 05, 2024).

Since Singapore was a British colony, it has always adopted the British-style education model. Later, after World War II, the United States has been leading as a hegemony and influencing all aspects of the world, including news and social media. Singapore is inevitably not immune in this regard.

It is not difficult to find that there are often inelegant and swearing/dirty dialogues in European and American films and dramas. Perhaps this is their traditional communication method and skills, or is it a way of expressing feelings and emotions that they do not mind?

In fact, we have also noticed that many Singaporeans, especially young people, do not care much about the communication style or the details of these “dirty words” in dialogues because most of them are influenced by Western education.

As far as the words used in a speech (regardless of whether it is refined or not, polished or not) fall into one of the general purposes: to inform, to persuade, to entertain, and to commemorate or celebrate, then it has fundamentally achieved its aims or missions.

The Orientals are generally more conservative and reserved in their communication methods, whether in daily conversations, writing, correspondence, or in the production of movies and TV series.

It can be well traced back to the traditional Chinese teachings of thousands of years ago. For example, Confucius believed that one’s speech should be cautious, accurate and responsible.

Confucius said, “when chaos arises, words are the order.” All chaos arise from the step-by-step development of careless speech. Therefore, “A gentleman cannot be careless in every word he says”. In daily life, “If you hear too much, you will be suspicious, and if you say anything else cautiously, you will be alone.”

I cannot agree more with the view of the article’s author that we need to be more positive about the words we use to communicate with others in both personal and professional settings.

In short, it is definitely a plus for expressing our feelings, emotions and thoughts in a clear, transparent, respectful, constructive and considerate manner so as to ensure no misunderstanding, confusion, suspicion, or unpleasantness will cause harm to others, especially to our loved ones, relatives and work colleagues.

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Traditional, or rather colloquial speak, trumps language and general influences, … especially where the red dot is concerned. Given the nation’s proud contribution to the English speaking world, with Singlish, fervently supported by the omnipresence of local dialects emanating in a delightful “rojak” version of spliced English, … with what sounds like English, interspersed with dialect phrases and words, ending with a holler of the lah’s, mah’s, leh’s, hor’s and the like, … as a means of expression rather than the usual intonation !!! With all of the above, and a misguided usage of certain key words like “revert” at… Read more »

It appears to me the irrelevance of going back to explain Confucius times, British Colonial times to I toe and support an article. Well that may have some aims in mind of the author or writer.

As long as one excericse discretion, appropriateness within, and in context of, taking into account etiquette protocols of age, seniority/juniority, sexes relevances and existence of the situation that talking and discussions remit – that’s it.