The beauty of imperfect ah beng speak

Over the years we have been schooled in proper English. Our standards were not perfect, mind you, but comparatively with ah beng speak, it is miles and miles ahead. When we speak with friends, no matter how broken the language might be, it does not cross the minimum boundary. That is to say, it does not transcend into ah beng speak.

But somehow there is this weirdly effective and calming effect when a speaker speaks in that manner. The tone, the accent and the words he chose, carefully modeled like someone who didn’t study hard enough, the ah beng. Yet it is all so familiar in our hearts as army speak. Our regular sergeants are not all made up of poly or jc students, and the older csms do not have much schooling. Somehow speech has evolved there. The English might not be entirely bad, just the manner of how things are phrased, you know it’s army style.

Recently in the general elections, our former chief of army talked in this manner when he talked about Lan Fang republic and also the new favourite word in the blogosphere, ki chiew. It does not sound like what a scholar or an army chief would say. I have no doubt that he is able to speak perfectly well in proper English, but he chose to speak in that way for a reason. In some weird way or another, it resonates with the crowd he is speaking with.

It is as if breaking a sentence into smaller bite sizes portions helps in understanding. We all do that from time to time, especially when talking in army. It’s like an NS tradition, something that cannot be eradicated? Perhaps that is the reason why such speak still stirs our heart from time to time. It feels as if you are included in the excitement when you hear such a speech.

Or perhaps, it is just a sense of familiarity of such talk. That you do not need to be highly educated in any language to understand. It’s as if you can be connected to the speaker. I don’t know why.

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