Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Spiaking Singlish by Gwee Li Sui

I got lagi many things to tok about, so you best buy some kopi, sit somewhere nice-nice, then continue reading.

If you dun know Singlish, this book will teach you until your Singlish steady pom pi pi. Whole book oso written in Singlish sia. Now wait some people complain how come liddat, so horrigible, the author say he macam follow Oxford England Dictionary.

I thought my Singlish sibeh solid, read this book then stunned like vegetable, actually my Singlish quite kayu, a bit cannot make it. I dunno words like bakero, hampalang, and tombola. All oso dunno. Like that how can?

Budden I think to myself, onli got 3 words dunno, still quite steady lah.

This unker not only teach Singlish, but oso is lagi funni and although I dun want simi sai oso politisai, realli got a bit. The author talk cock sing song about Ah Kong, Lao Goh, Ah Loong, our world-crass MRT and how we try to be more England than England speakers. So confirm-plus-chop is the bestest explanation of how life in our kampung is like. Hope he dun kena buak goo-yoo though.

The Singlish terms quite easily understooded cos the same sentence got explain. If dun have, the next sentence sure got. If lagi best, still dunno, then you hampalang guess lor. Or you ask your fren help you. I also got ask.

Budden hor, if you cannot spiak both powderful Singlish and England, then cham, might be a bit hard to read. Cos unker last time is assistant prof at university, some words quite cheem, you not enuff England, maybe won’t understand cos cheemology. 

Words like “onomatopoeia”, “end-rhymes”, macam Lit student then know.

Then those who only spiak England, also sama-sama. Reading the book, they might find it cannot be understooded, cos lagi cheem. I myself read more than 5 chapters become blur like sotong.

This book good is cos it got say where the Singlish word come from. Example is like this. Si geena might say corright Singlish is say “steady pom pi pi”, but unker explain it is from Hokkien, where “poon pee pee” mean macam blow whistle cos last time people do that when they suka their favourite singer or football team.

Like a typical Singaporean geena, I found the quiz at the back of the book lagi fun. I only got 44/50, then unker say like this:

“Your Singlish is so-so nia. If I close one ear, it should pass, but, if I dun, can’t say how long I can tahan leh. You have a sense of the language and some love - and that’s good! But you sibeh suka tikam-tikam: the bits you bo chap, you act blur and present only Ah Bengs and Ah Lians use. Dun so atas, can? Oso, not I say you, but, when you dunno what to spiak, can dun keng and anyhowly whack? You lidded is as bad as mee siam mai hum: dun bedek-bedek and say you never ha! Embrace your Singaporeanness properly. Learn more Singlish and chiong with it. No need to scared: Singapore won’t become a fishing village one. The more you spiak, the betterer you’ll be, and, one fine day, you’ll sure song-song gao Jurong!”


This unker also very zai in drawing ang kong. He ownself draw comics at the front of each chapter. Ho say bo? And is not kiam chye cha loti one, is got link to the Singlish word he trying to explain. Not super stylo-milo like Marvel comic, but the ang kong realli quite funny and is lagi good. They short-short one, like each chapter, chop-chop kalipok can finish a few in one train ride.

Budden hor, I dun like one thing is the word “kuniang”, but not unker’s fault, is the fault of Singlish lah, what to do. But dun have a lot so okay lah.

I think you should suppork this book, and those who can spiak powderful England and Singlish will be able to read it easily. Those who aren’t might catch no ball, but can relak if they read with their fren who can spiak. It is also good for ang moh and cheena people in Singapore. Cos spiaking Singlish which all born and bled Singaporeans can, is the bestest.

English Translation

I have a lot of things to say in this review, so it’s advisable that you grab yourself a cuppa coffee, seat yourself some place comfortable, before embarking on this review.

This is quite the definitive guide to the language that is Singlish. And guess, what, it’s written entirely in Singlish. Now before you raise your heckles and complain how anyone would understand a book about Singlish delivered in Singlish, the author points us to the Oxford English Dictionary.

I thought my standard of Singlish was pretty decent until I read this book. Terms like bakero (a term “to express extreme disdain or hostility”), hampalang (“refers to everyone, everything, or everywhere), and tombola (“to leave a decision to luck”) are quite foreign to me.

However, 3 unknown words out of a list of 45 ain’t too bad I reckon.

Not only does this book explain Singlish to us, it is a humorous and subversive book. With references to the late MM Lee, the former PM Goh, our current PM Lee, our “world-crass MRT”, how we try to be more “England than England speakers”, it provides a wonderfully perceptive view of how life in Singapore is like.

Also, most Singlish terms are defined within the same sentence, or at most, in the very next one. You might also be able to use contextual clues to help you figure out terms that are not defined. Or you could also ask a more fluent Singlish speaker to help you. Which I did.

However, I must say that this isn’t a book for those whose can only speak Singlish, or English. It is meant for the Singaporean well-versed in both languages. As a former assistant professor, Gwee takes great care to explain the usage of certain terms, and without a good grasp of the English language, one might find it hard to follow the train of thought the author is taking. 

A Lit student might be able to comprehend terms like “onomatopoeia”, “end-rhymes”, but your typical Ah Beng may not. (I’m not looking down on Ah Bengs, some may very well understand these terms, but I’m making a generalisation here.) 

Conversely, someone who only speaks English might find reading this book an insurmountable hurdle. As someone who’s a frequent reader, I found this book quite taxing on the brain and could only consume it in small amounts (3-5 chapters) at any one time. (Perhaps it is an admission that my Singlish isn’t quite up to par?)

But this book does a good job with clarifying etymology of Singlish terms. I thought that this was the strength of the book. Here’s an example. Whereas a teenager may claim that “steady pom pi pi” is the correct pronunciation of the term, Gwee explains that “steady poon pee pee” references a person blowing a whistle in Hokkien which was what audiences used to declare their love for a performer or a team.

I especially loved the 50 question test located at the end of the book. Because like the typical Singaporean, we have been well-trained in taking MCQ tests from our years in school. I scored 44/50, to which the author declares:

“Your Singlish is so-so nia. If I close one ear, it should pass, but, if I dun, can’t say how long I can tahan leh. You have a sense of the language and some love - and that’s good! But you sibeh suka tikam-tikam: the bits you bo chap, you act blur and present only Ah Bengs and Ah Lians use. Dun so atas, can? Oso, not I say you, but, when you dunno what to spiak, can dun keng and anyhowly whack? You lidded is as bad as mee siam mai hum: dun bedek-bedek and say you never ha! Embrace your Singaporeanness properly. Learn more Singlish and chiong with it. No need to scared: Singapore won’t become a fishing village one. The more you spiak, the betterer you’ll be, and, one fine day, you’ll sure song-song gao Jurong!”

Which describes me perfectly.

An added plus point would be the comics that grace the start of each chapter. They are wholly in Singlish and complement the said Singlish term, giving readers a good illustration of how the words can be used in real life. I liked the fact that the comics were to-the-point. They were just like how the chapters themselves were self-contained within 3-5 pages.

One gripe of mine would be that there were hints of misogyny which is not the author’s fault, but is inherent in Singlish. Those called “kuniang” will no doubt feel the same. Thankfully, those were few and far between.

I’d recommend this book to fluent speakers of both English and Singlish. Those who aren’t might have trouble with it, but try buying it with a group of friends and the more fluent ones might explain certain terms to the beginners. It might also be useful for the newly integrated immigrants or even foreigners working in Singapore. For there’s nothing quite like speaking the language of the vox populi, is there?

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Life in the Presence of God by Kenneth Boa

Now I've read a couple of books on the topic of "hearing from God" such as Dallas Willard's Hearing God, John Eldredge's Walking with God, and many more. This book however, is a more holistic one where it talks about how we can, like the famous Brother Lawrence, be more aware of the presence of God in our day to day living.

The author mentions that one of the reasons why he wrote this book was that even though there are many similar books out there, there are precious few that give practical steps to take on how to live in God's presence. They are usually more abstract and theoretical.

I have used some of the tips in the book and found them immensely helpful.

One of which was from the chapter, "Rewiring Your Mind" which involved writing a verse down on a small piece of paper (I chose Philippians 4:6-8) and then reading it at various moments throughout the day to be aware of God's voice in one's life. 

In addition, another similar activity I did was taken out of Chapter 8, "Reorganising Your Time", which reminds us that the time we have on earth is fleeting. I copied down the following on a piece of paper and reflected upon it throughout the day, when I felt the urge to scan my phone for social media updates, even after deleting Instagram and Facebook from my phone. This made me more aware of the limited time I have in this life and I'd recommend this practice for everyone too!

The verse is from James 4:13-15 and reads,

"Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Out of all the practices suggested in the book, I've only just implemented 2 and I've felt such a significant change in my life these past two weeks. I felt calmer, more aware and mindful of my surroundings and purpose in life.

If I had but one criticism, it would be that I felt that the last couple of chapters were slightly unnecessary. It made the book a little longer than it ought to be, but I guess the author still had much to say.

Overall, it's a pretty decent and easy-to-read book and there are plenty more tips in the book apart from the ones I've mentioned. I'd recommend anyone curious to know how to live life in the presence of God to read it.

Get your copy today from Amazon, Book Depository or InterVarsity Press!

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Book of Hims by Ng Yi-Sheng

This is a fascinating book which is a compilation of the different men who'd been significant in the author's life - current and past lovers, mentors, authority and religious figures and more. 

I really enjoyed the poem referencing various quotes from the late Lee Kuan Yew. It reads very different from the person he was but yet the words were all completely from him. (Hint: The poem reads a little bit sado-masochistic. Very cool.) Check out my YouTube video below for a brief preview.

The riffs on Jesus was interesting too considering that the author doesn't identify as a Christian. But they really resonated.

I thought the transliterated Tang poems were an interesting addition. I recognised 3 out of the 7 and thought that was a great accomplishment. Though I must say that one must have both the background of Chinese literature and the ability to "hear" the transliteration to properly appreciate them.

61 was pretty cool too, a reference to bus 61 which was a #SingPoWriMo prompt. For the uninitiated, SingPoWriMo is a yearly event properly known as the Singapore Poetry Writing Month where a bunch of people come together on Facebook to write a bunch of poems following the prompt of the day. It's great fun and a couple of poems from this collection were part of that effort.

It's a pretty good collection of poems, just a tiny bit uneven at times, but not bad nonetheless. I like the experiments with the sonnets and ghazals. Pretty nice to see meter (which I adore). 

If you enjoyed my review, you can get the book from Books Actually by clicking here.

Here's my YouTube review:

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

'Others' is not a race by Melissa De Silva

Can I first comment on how gorgeous this cover is? It's essentially a cake broken up into 4 parts - 310g butter, 200g sugar, 150 sugee, 12.5ml vanilla essence representing the four major races in Singapore. It's simple, elegant, and captures the population breakdown so very well.

I sat in at the book launch of 'Others' is not a race as part of the Singapore Writers Festival last weekend and was intrigued by the premise of the book and promptly went to purchase it.

It is essentially a collection of short stories by Melissa De Silva about the Eurasian experience in Singapore. She describes in beautiful prose how it is like to make a sugee cake to defend her heritage after encountering a lousy cake in a cafe with her friends.

Also, she elaborates about how it was like being mistaken for being Indian in primary school and how she was forced to take Malay as a Mother Tongue as well.

I thought the speculative science fiction story at the end of the book was really good and very interesting to read (I've always loved sci-fi).

Then there is the rant in the piece that inspired the book title, Letter to Anonymous Policy Maker (RE: 'Others' is Not a Race) where she lets it rip, and allowed me to understand how Eurasians have always been forgotten in the national narrative even though we've had a Eurasian President (Benjamin Sheares) and an Olympic gold (Joseph Schooling) from the community.

This book was an eye-opener and allowed me to plumb the depths of how it is like being Eurasian and it certainly helped that the writing was clear, clever, and very engaging.

It's part history, part memoir, and wholly captivating.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A letter to my Congregation by Ken Wilson

I've read many books that describes the tension of being gay and Christian, such as Ed Shaw's Same Sex Attraction and the Church, Nate Collins' All but Invisible, Christopher and Angela Yuan's by Out of a Far Country, and Deborah Barr's All Things New, but this was the first book from the perspective of a pastor.

Ken Wilson is a straight pastor who started wrestling with the question of whether to include LGBTQ+ folk into his church after maintaining a traditional view (that they should be excluded from membership) for the longest time.

He dislikes the way that the culture war has framed the issue, namely that people are either liberal or conservative, affirming or non-affirming. He maintains that there is a third way - that one can be accepting of gay Christians even if they disagreed with their decisions. He says that that's the way of Christ - love and acceptance.

So it seems somewhat schizophrenic when he analyses the clobber verses and found them wanting. It seems then that he is saying that the Bible does not condemn homosexual relationships. Further on in the book, he says that he would be fine conducting a gay marriage as a pastor. The more conservative among us would maintain that he is bowing to cultural pressure, but this book carefully details his struggle with the entire issue, and his was definitely not a snap-decision but involved a long, drawn-out process that involved lots of Bible reading, prayer and discernment.

What I found interesting about this book was that the author emphasizes how hard it is to live life as a pastor dealing with such issues. Like whether to baptise an "openly gay" person. He says that the people who casually throw barbs online or in real life don't usually face these people and deny them communion for example. So it seems to me that a large part of his change in position came about because of his interaction with LGBTQ folk. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn't Bible exegesis either.

A final point I'd like to make is that this book leans heavily evangelical in that the author liberally mentions how he is "led by the Spirit" in several situations and I guess that was a factor in his "conversion" as well. Interesting, but it might be alien to those from more cerebral traditions, such as the Presbyterians.

Well, it's not a bad read but not the most informative. I'd recommend Nate Collins' All but Invisible for a more detailed exposition on the topic. But it does show us how tough a pastor's job can be.

Get your copy from Amazon or Book Depository today.