Language Use

I rarely talk about my life but today’s Sports Meet have been an eye-opener. First there was the running-on-slippery-track act that totally stunned me (in other words, cause me to feel so bored I was practically stoning). Next comes the cheering that involved a few zi-high committee people banging plastic bottles and metal pans. Then there was a bunch of idiots who actually made some money out of selling things you don’t typically see on a Sports Meet – ‘Oven-baked Dough’ of various types. Most importantly, I have this freak behind me who told me, ‘You are totally trying to be funny on your blog. You use such complex sentence structures and vocabulary just to express a simple statement.’ I paused. Totally freaked out by the insult, not the person who delivered the statement.

Language have been an issue for me since a kid. I never liked spelling because the notion of a few blades that spins when you turn it on, with some metal netting covering the blades doesn’t seem to relate to the alphabets ‘F’, ‘A’ or ‘N’ and after understanding that the ‘metallic bird’ that we board to go to London is known as the ‘Aeroplane’, I decided that language is something I will not be very good at. Life as a kid who was bad in language is really sad – you start hurling vulgarities (probably the only few words in your vocabulary) when you are frustrated with the weird arrangements of alphabets you are presented with, without knowing what those vulgarities mean. The result – some sort of counseling session that wouldn’t have any effect anyway. Trust me, it really feels bad to be speaking some Hokkien and lots of Chinese when you are in a school with teachers who totally dislike such students. I spent majority of my English lessons in Primary school standing at the back of the classroom, especially for lower primary.

I thought it’d be great to be in a Chinese School since my English was so bad and western culture sounds a little barbaric sometimes. Unfortunately, the school was at a stage of trying to shed their ‘Chinese’ image so I had to go with the flow and trying to pick up English in the way the education system wanted me to. They gave me loads of incentives – I got more counseling sessions for over-using English and there were rules stipulating that Mandarin is disallowed in all lessons except Chinese. In particular, a history teacher scolded me rather badly for speaking Mandarin. It’s fine in retrospect. That’s totally better than the Chinese oppression in Indonesia (that I happen to learn later in that lesson). I knew I had to learn English in the way that I can use it so I embarked on the arduous journey in search of a sort of ‘Enligishtenment’. Eventually, I decided that intuition was the best way of directing my use of the language. Hard learning of grammar rules or memorizing vocabulary does little to improve my standards. Only by embracing the language, using it flexibly, and distorting it to suit the circumstances, would you truly use it and be a user of the language.

So when my sister asking me the meaning of ‘ruefulness’, I said, ‘I am not a dictionary. I study not the language. I use the language.’ Of course, while I now know the term is supposed to mean sorrow, I was trying to illustrate the point that every word you use is but a figure, just like a number, with something it represents but cannot fully describe or replace the ‘thing’ – physical or metaphysical. As a user of language, I am allowed to manipulate it the way I want to achieve my desired effects. Why should that rascal tell me that I am over-working my sentences and using redundantly difficult words? Life’s getting worst for the kid who’s English cannot make it.

Now that you have had a taste of my rant, I think it’d be good for you to improve your thinking habits.


  1. Hah. Just as Locke would agree. But while its limitations cannot be refuted, its function to communicate ideas is undeniably irreplaceable until we uncover the secrets of telepathy.

  2. What you write is purely as a form of self-expression anyway. I’ve learnt that deploring the way blogs or ideas are presented (and its contents) are presented only reveals how rigid your mind is; a poor thinking habit. Sorry I had to mention that >

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