Use your words with care

IT IS not difficult to notice that people these days are easily angered and spew profanities at the slightest provocation. When this happens, decency flies out through the window and we are left with a bad impression of the decaying society we are in today.

So intertwined is language with culture that it may be argued that the language we speak can affect us in many ways. The way we view the world, how we view ourselves in relation to the world and, the impact the world has on us. Language can affect our psychology and behaviour, can have a bearing on our national identity and can be used for gains. As the American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez once said, "Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers".

This is so true but many of us, in a fit of anger, can turn into brutes with an eruption of words that can have unimaginable effect and implication.

Recently, I witnessed an event in which the "protagonist" thought she was doing herself a favour when she marched into a telco, armed with nothing but causticity.

At the service centre, she started firing like a machine gun. She had a valid grouse conveyed in the most unpleasant manner.

She was so spikey with words and what was even more hurtful was the free flow of swear words that left the service assistant in tears. I was one of several customers present during the episode and it left me with an unpleasant feeling the entire day.

Many of us think that when we become proficient in English, it gives us an edge over the less proficient ones and we take great pride in throwing uncouth words. The language serves the very purpose of the user and when we use English a certain decorum has to be observed.

Steering slightly off-course, I was at a dinner recently and someone from the group was talking about how important Mandarin was going to be in the near future and then on and this was in the context of the OBOR/ Silk Road symposium in China.

He opined that Mandarin will overtake English in no time and it would be wise for all of us to learn Mandarin to be able to sustain in the business world. Now, this is an ongoing debate percolating in the background while Malaysians are still getting their acts together to ensure we are at a certain level of proficiency.

In this context. I wish to share an interesting anecdote I read:
A Russian, a Korean, and a Mexican walk into a bar. How do they communicate? In English, if at all, even though it's not anyone's native language. Swap out a bar for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in China this week, and the heads of state from those three countries still have to communicate in English: It's the only official language of the Apec, even when the Apec gathers in Beijing.

And it was said that Mark Zuckerberg recently became a sensation during his visit to Beijing when he made some remarks in Mandarin. The news sparked talk about whether China's economic rise means Mandarin could someday rival English as a global language.
The take is that Mandarin will be helpful for foreigners doing business in China but English as a language that bridges and fills the gaps cannot be taken over by Mandarin or any other language, not now and not in the foreseeable future.

This is because native speakers of English are strategically and generously dotted across the globe and culturally, English takes centre-stage where music, movies and sports are concerned.

We can't deny that English is the language of technologies as many world languages have yet to come up with a translation that makes contextual sense for technical terms and terminologies.

Dear Readers, this would be the concluding article under this column. I will continue to write under a different banner from next month. It has been a wonderful experience sharing my thoughts on English and receiving positive comments from time to time. I sign out with a big THANK YOU.