NOTE: This is also my homework for my module. See, I am posting this here on my blog and at the same time my learning journal for my Professional Development Module. Two birds in one shot.. Nice....
My former centre is strategically located in Bukit Timah area where many expatriates live. That is why there are a handful of Western children who mingle and interact with local children who came from English speaking family background.
During my first few weeks, I observed this little girl named Natalie (fictitious name) who is a pure Singaporean. I noticed that she is a talker and she speaks with sense considering her young age of two and a half. I was so fascinated of her rich vocabulary that I was inspired more to engage her in a conversation every time an opportunity arises.
One time, Natalie’s Mummy wrote on her communication book addressed to all of us teachers informing us that she noticed over the week end that her daughter kept on talking to her with “no lah” and all the other words ending with “lah”. She requested that we teachers look into the matter.
Since I was Natalie’s Form Teacher, I was the one who wrote a reply to her Mum. I stated my observation and analysis on Natalie’s communication skills. That she has rich vocabulary at her young age and I credited her parents for providing her much time to talk with them. I stated that those children who ask questions and talk a lot are those whose parents have time to talk with them.
I also added that the teachers and I in particular are providing activities for their daughter that would enhance her to develop other skills like thinking skills, problem solving skills and comprehension skills all appropriate for her young age. I reiterated that our Directed Activities in the afternoon would provide more meaningful experiences for her daughter to acquire those skills in the process. I assured her that all the teachers in the centre would try to speak grammatically correct English especially during lesson time.
As much as I would like to react and be defensive that there were no teachers who speak to her using those “lahs”, my being professional stopped me from doing so. Instead of tackling why and how or why not or who in the centre speaks with “lahs”, I decided to use the opportunity to relate to the mother information about her daughter in a professional way. With this, I earned the respect of Natalie’s parents.
And whether Natalie really imitated someone in saying things and ending them with “lahs, is not an important matter to discuss anymore. What’s important is that her mother was assured that she is in good hands. That we, teachers know what we are doing and that we are doing our job to the best of our ability.
But on second thought, is there really harm done to children when they learn to speak with “lahs” or even “aiyah” or “aiyoh” for that matter?
When I came to Singapore, I never ever find this unique colloquial speech as funny. I found it cute and uniquely Singapore. For me, the speech defines Singapore, not in a bad light but in something that makes a people, something that one owns and should be proud of.
Anyway, I should and never would tell that to a Singaporean parent. Parents know what is best for their child. I am just here to support their child and motivate them to achieve their potential to the fullest. I should respect what a parent wants.
But if I would be given the chance to be asked that question, I would explain that there is no harm as long as we explain to children that those speeches are used in informal settings. I am of the belief that children are intelligent enough to know when and how to use such a language in different settings. Also, children would be exposed to different environment and settings and they would learn to digest which one or words are correct for a particular setting. And mostly they would learn an identity they would be proud to have the rest of their lives.