LEARN­ING HOW TO SPEAK PROP­ERLY IS IM­POR­TANT

Mas­ter­ing English or Chi­nese will not make you any less Malaysian, but will in­stead give you a com­pet­i­tive edge

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

BABY bab­ble may sound cute. We laugh in de­light when­ever a baby starts to coo and make un­in­tel­li­gi­ble sounds. But, if left unat­tended, the baby may have a rough road ahead learn­ing to speak clearly when he gets older, and adults around him may have a tough time try­ing to de­ci­pher his strings of alien sound­ing words.

As new par­ents, we have been told by our el­ders to use proper and clear lan­guage when talk­ing to ba­bies in­stead of baby bab­ble no mat­ter how cute it sounds. The need to mas­ter the abil­ity to speak clearly does not only ap­ply to ba­bies, but adults, too.

Most adults do not have speech im­pair­ment un­less they have some form of oral de­fect or is­sues with their voice box.

Be­ing ar­tic­u­late is a cru­cial skill in Putrajaya, es­pe­cially for those who head min­istries, govern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies.

This writer has cov­ered enough events at the ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal in the past five years to wit­ness all sorts of peo­ple with ar­tic­u­la­tion is­sues.

There are those with such a soft voice that even if you place a voice recorder near to the per­son’s mouth, it can barely cap­ture what he is say­ing.

When this hap­pens, the frus­tra­tion on the jour­nal­ists’ faces is ob­vi­ous as we know it will be tough to write the ar­ti­cle later, with our bosses breath­ing down our necks, rush­ing us to meet the dead­line.

Be­sides the soft spo­ken peo­ple, jour­nal­ists also have to deal with those who have prob­lems putting their thoughts and views into words or sen­tences for the lay­men to un­der­stand.

Such speak­ers also tend to be long-winded, try­ing to impress lis­ten­ers with their speeches that are longer than 30 min­utes and pep­pered with jargon.

Deal­ing with such char­ac­ters is enough to make re­porters reach for painkillers to numb the headache as we write the ar­ti­cle.

Things go from bad to worse when jour­nal­ists have to deal with peo­ple who en­joy us­ing words and terms that do not ex­ist in the dic­tio­nary, in sen­tences that are con­fus­ing, jump­ing from one sub­ject to an­other all in one breath.

Once we have picked up our jaws from the floor, we cringe at the task of hav­ing to file in an ar­ti­cle that our bosses and read­ers can com­pre­hend when we have trou­ble un­der­stand­ing it.

For us in the English me­dia, we of­ten have to trans­late speeches from Ba­hasa Malaysia to English since Ba­hasa Malaysia, as the coun­try’s of­fi­cial lan­guage, is widely used here in Putrajaya.

On rare oc­ca­sions, we are spared from trans­lat­ing when speeches are in English, but an­other thing rears its ugly head — the atro­cious pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

My brain has to do an ac­ro­batic act just to fig­ure out what the per­son is try­ing to say be­cause their dic­tion can some­times be mo­not­o­nous, sound­ing sim­i­lar to the tone when one de­liv­ers a speech in Ba­hasa Malaysia.

I do not ex­pect the speak­ers to sound Bri­tish or Amer­i­can, but they should cor­rectly pro­nounce English words.

A word, if pro­nounced wrongly, can mean an­other thing. For ex­am­ple, the word “bow” (bau) refers to the ac­tion of bend­ing down­ward or to in­cline, while “bow” (bo) refers to a knot with two loops and two loose ends.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion is so im­por­tant that when I pur­sued my de­gree, I had to take a class on speak­ing skills. We had fun learn­ing about it.

I was in­trigued by what co­me­dian Harith Iskan­der shared dur­ing a Na­tional Trans­for­ma­tion 2050 di­a­logue ses­sion with the prime min­is­ter and those in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try on Wed­nes­day night.

Harith called on his fel­low com­pa­tri­ots not to be afraid of the English and Chi­nese lan­guages if they want their ca­reer to go be­yond Malaysian shores.

“If you want to move for­ward, don’t be afraid of the English and Chi­nese lan­guages,” he told more than 300 movers and shak­ers of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

The same call should be made to those in Putrajaya.

Mas­ter­ing English or Chi­nese will not make you any less Malaysian, but will in­stead give you a com­pet­i­tive edge.

It is a mat­ter of mak­ing the move to im­prove one­self, in­clud­ing hir­ing a speech coach, and this should be en­cour­aged among civil ser­vants, es­pe­cially top ranking govern­ment of­fi­cers who are pub­lic fig­ures.

Bri­tish writer An­thony Hope once said un­less one is a ge­nius, it is best to aim at be­ing in­tel­li­gi­ble. Hope has my full sup­port on this.

This is some­thing per­haps the prime min­is­ter can con­sider, es­pe­cially when Malaysia is in high gear to be­come one of the top 20 na­tions by 2050.

While wait­ing for Putrajaya folk to im­prove their ar­tic­u­la­tion, I will stock up on painkillers.

This writer has cov­ered enough events at the ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal in the past five years to wit­ness all sorts of peo­ple with ar­tic­u­la­tion is­sues. There are those with such a soft voice that even if you place a voice recorder near to the per­son’s mouth, it can barely cap­ture what he is say­ing.

FILE PIC

Be­ing ar­tic­u­late is a cru­cial skill in Putrajaya, es­pe­cially for those who head min­istries, govern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies.

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