Learning Chinese in Singapore for Foreigners
联合早报 zbNOW - 14 November 2016
Indian Fund Manager Became Popular in Using Chinese to Interact with Singaporeans
Tushar, who came from New Delhi, India is a fund manager of a local finance company. Being in Singapore for 3 years, he started to learn Chinese merely due to his interest. However, what he did not expect was the convenience it brought his life, and also the language’s ability to bridge the gap between him and his local friends.
When settling in a foreign country, understanding and learning a local language and culture not only widens one’s horizon, but also enhance enjoyment of life. Tushar Sinha, who came from New Delhi, India, is a fund manager of a local finance company. Within the 3 years of staying in Singapore, as to enrich after-work hours, he had actively tried out a variety of things he was interested in but yet to to take action. The first one was to learn Chinese.
Toys initiated his interest towards Chinese
During the interview, Tushar tried to use Chinese to narrate bit by bit on his journey of language learning. Born in Calcutta, he developed a strong interest towards Chinese since young. From his recollection, he said, “My childhood toys were mostly imported from Taiwan or Japan, where Chinese characters were seen. In my hometown, there were some temples built by Chinese immigrants in the old times. At that time I thought that Chinese characters were beautiful, very artistic, like a painting, I liked it very much.”
His fondness towards Chinese characters had sowed the seed of yearning to master this language. In 2013, after being dispatched by his company to work in Singapore, he found a language school that specialises in teaching Chinese to foreigners, thereby fulfilling his wish to learn the language.
According to his teacher, Wang Zhen Yu, Tushar is an intelligent student with great memory and talent in language skills. Putting in twice a week for the Chinese lessons, he started from the simplest pinyin (Chinese Phoenetic Alphabet Orthography), and within a year and half he could already conduct daily conversations.
When going to hawker’s food court, Tushar would try to make his order in Chinese. He said, “I like to eat Chinese economy rice, because there’s no such thing in India, you can choose (the dishes) one by one, I tell them I want this and this, then whether I eat in or take away, and asks for the price. Many of them are surprised that an Indian can speak Chinese. ”
Learning Chinese is not only useful in Singapore. Tushar recalled there was once he finished his trip in Thailand and was about to take the return flight to Singapore. He looked for signboards that indicate “International Departures” in the airport, but at that time he could only find the ones in Thai and Chinese. Fortunately he knew the four Chinese characters of “国际出发”(guo ji chu fa, meaning “international departures”), hence allowing him to find the departure lounge.
Tushar said he initially started to learn Chinese merely due to his interest. Little did he expect his language skills to bring him much more convenience in daily life, which is also an additional reward.
Language Bridge the Gap between People
Besides learning language, Tushar also enrolled in a swimming club. Every week he would swim with the club members. In addition, he also joined a volunteer group to visit the old folks’ home regularly. He made a lot of local friends there, and would sometimes speak to them in Chinese. “Each time when I speak in Chinese, they are appreciative that I learn their language and culture. When they know I can speak their language, they feel closer with me, because I use their language to communicate with them, ” He said.
Talking on how he gets along with his friends, he said that the most touching moment was on one occasion after his work, when he had a sudden ache in his back. He could barely stand up to walk. His first instinct was to seek help from his Chinese teacher. Tushar said, “I rang Teacher Wang, he rushed to my office, called the ambulance and stayed with me for a long time in the hospital. I was very thankful.”
Stepping Out from One’s Social Circle
Learning a new language, becoming a volunteer, finding interest groups; in the interview, Tushar said he is someone who cannot stay still. If there is a chance he would like to know more about the country he lives in, and people here.
When he first came to Singapore, the housing agent told him that many Indian immigrants prefer to stay in the East Coast region, and asked if he would like to look for flats there. However, he refused and explained, “It’s not difficult to make friends with Indians, but since I am already overseas, I would like to learn the new culture and make new friends abroad.”
Tushar said, “Many people come abroad but dare not to step out from their own social circles, perhaps it’s due to the fear of making mistakes and thus not being accepted by others. Actually it doesn’t matter, it’s just like I always say the wrong things while learning Chinese. There was once I said “女教练 nü jiao lian”(female trainer) as “牛教练 niu jiao lian”(bull trainer), and while praising a friend as “高效率 gao xiao lü” (efficient) but I said “你很高效 ni hen gao xiao” (you’re funny) instead. Yet others just gave me a smile, what matters the most is that they see you are willing to learn their cultures.”
Chinese Article and Photography by: 李雅歌
English Translation by: Boxi @ Han Hai Language Studio
Link to the article: http://www.zaobao.com.sg/news/fukan/crossroad/story20161114-689946