I was mightily embarrassed when the young woman sang Singapore’s national anthem Majulah Singapura at the reception to mark the US Independence Day. She was a young Chinese woman, whose name I didn’t quite catch except for her surname Seow. Through her delivery, she showed how communally insular Singaporeans can be.
After the US Charge d’Affairs (the ambassador’s position is currently vacant) proposed a toast to Singapore’s President Nathan, she came out to sing a capella. She got her notes in pitch (though she did a painful variation of one part), but her diction was quite unbecoming. Not that it was slurred or unclear; it was all too clear. One could hear only too well that she had no clue how to pronounce Malay.
Even if one doesn’t speak Malay, after 12 years of school, surely one should be able to pronounce the words in the national anthem correctly? Surely living in Singapore, one should have developed an ear for the sounds of the Malay language?
Or do we live in isolated cocoons of our racial, linguistic, or maybe even religious groups, never mingling with others nor learning a little of each others’ languages?
The refrain of the national anthem is:
Marilah kita bersatu
Dengan semangat yang baru
Semua kita berseru
She murdered the words “dengan”, “semangat” and “Singapura”. For these words, she pronounced the “n” and the “g” separately, thus “den gan”, “semang gat”, and “sing ga pu ra” when “ng” should be a single consonant nasally delivered.
What an ambassador we had in her.