Doors to Diplomacy Project ID: 7310

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Hybrid Languages and
Category: 8. Arts and Culture

School: Raffles Institution
    Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

4 students, ages 15,16 worked together to complete this Doors to Diplomacy project on March 16, 2012. They have participated in Doors to Diplomacy in the following year(s): 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

Classes and Teachers: Mr Eric Koh, Jia Yao, Zuo Min, Zi Xuan, Peng Fei

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Team

Our team is composed of Kuek Jia Yao and Goh Zuo Min, both native Singaporeans, in addition to Yan Pengfei and Zhang Zixuan, hailing from the People’s Republic of China. Furthermore, we are also from different dialect groups. Jia Yao is of Chaozhou origin and speaks the Teochew dialect. In addition, Zuo Min is of Fujian origin and speaks the Hokkien dialect. Pengfei is from Jiangsu and speaks standard Mandarin while Zixuan is multilinguistic; he speaks the Cantonese and Teochew dialects though he is from Guangdong. We complement each other very well, and our diverse backgrounds provide for a wide plethora of views, adding to vibrant (and sometimes slightly heated) discussions. Furthermore, our whole project revolves around the concept of hybrid languages and Singlish in particular. Hence, it greatly benefits our project to have all of us from different dialect groups such that we may analyse their impacts on the development of Singapore’s very-own Singlish. Jia Yao, the leader of the group, led the group in the right direction of our research. Zuo Min, being more tech-savvy, focused more on the website designing and online information gathering. Zixuan and Pengfei gave us alternate ideas, especially because they are from very different dialect groups. We were drawn together by our shared interest in the diverse multicultural scene here in Singapore, and our common passion for Singlish fuelled our pursuit of answers into how it and other hybrid languages formed and continued to develop further. Furthermore, Mr Eric Koh was one of the best teacher-mentors that our team could ever have; not only being widely proficient in his general knowledge and understanding of history, but also being highly-experienced in guiding Doors to Diplomacy teams. He generously provided several interesting viewpoints on hybrid languages as well as giving us ideas whenever we met certain obstacles.

2. Summary of Our Project

Our project adopts a two-pronged approach. Firstly, we seek to find out how hybrid languages are formed in the midst of close interaction and coexistence between different cultures and several factors which influenced their development. We also researched on their possible causes and effects and drew on the specific case-study of Singlish, the English-based creole language widely spoken in Singapore. As such, this all ultimately converged in hybrid languages’ role as a unique form of arts and culture, as well as reflecting track four diplomacy, an informal and yet important form of discourse and communication between individuals from different countries. Secondly, we also sought to share our various findings with the public, starting with our fellow schoolmates. This was achieved via presentations and an exhibition and they were organised so as to raise awareness about the importance of Singlish in our local arts and culture. Furthermore, we hoped to show the public that while Singlish is supposedly though to be an inferior and slightly “inferior” form of English, it is actually something to be proud of and hence, treasure as part of our national identity.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Hybrid languages as a form of arts and culture as well as diplomacy being a relatively new field of research, we did face certain problems in obtaining the necessary resources to learn more about our topic. However, we were able to overcome this not only through sheer hard work (by thoroughly checking the National Library of Singapore), but also by making use of alternative sources, such as interviewing individuals proficient in this particular field. As a consequence, we did learn one important lesson: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Anything can be accomplished if we are willing to put in the necessary effort. One slight problem we had earlier on in our project was our apparent lack of computing knowledge with regards to website-building. However, this was easily overcome when we came across Wix. Featuring a user-friendly interface, the discovery of this free website-builder was another fruitful takeaway from our Doors to Diplomacy journey and truly made our task much, much easier. We enjoyed all aspects of building our website and hopefully, came up with one that fulfils standards. Lastly, in diplomacy, keeping up to date with current issues is very important. Wix is one of the newest and fastest-growing website-builders available and hence, reflects how we as a team taking part in Doors to Diplomacy must also utilize the latest tools.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Doors to Diplomacy has not only taught us the value of in-depth research and the importance of analysing an issue from all angles; but also the importance of treasuring our roots and not taking for granted the many elements of our multi-cultural society which we see in Singapore today, first and foremost of which is Singlish, the main focus of our project.

6. How did your activities and research for this Doors to Diplomacy Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

Our school has a Research Education module which is compulsory for all students. As such, our Doors to Diplomacy project was able to fulfil the dual goals of being our Research Education project submission but also enabling us to fulfil our common interests by being an ideal topic of discussion for our Doors to Diplomacy project. We capitalized on this and treated it as an advantage as our Research Education module provided us to some extent with a compulsory guideline and framework which we could base the rest of our project upon. Furthermore, the research techniques that were taught to us also helped us in the course of digging up background information to support our findings. Another impact of this was that our knowledge of other cultures and peoples around the world was greatly enhanced, and this would surely be to our great benefit in the future. This project was also able to hone our skills not only in the aforementioned areas, but also in conducting interviews to attain differing and valuable views of other, conducting surveys so as to gauge the perceptions of the public and finally, our analytical skills. To fully understand our chosen topic, we had to analyse all aspects of hybrid languages and frequently “think out of the box”. Lastly, our school’s aims to groom students who are thinkers, leaders and pioneers. As aforementioned, this project has already allowed us to fulfil the first objective. Furthermore, by putting forth the theory that Singlish may in fact be beneficial and good for our local arts scene, we are breaking new ground and going against commonly-held misconceptions, so much so that even the Singapore government has put forth various campaigns to promote good English. Hence, we may also be unconsciously embodying the characteristics of both a leader and a pioneer by putting forth revolutionary new arguments that support Singlish as being essential to our common national identity.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your Doors to Diplomacy project?

We utilized printed material (the majority of which were books on Singlish, the focus of our project) as well as non-printed reference material, including webpages, online encyclopaedia entries and magazine/ journal articles. In addition, we utilised Facebook and Twitter, social networking platforms, to engage our audience in the most personal way. We posted fun fatcs about hybrid languages to better equip our fellow schoolmates and the general public with the knowledge of the hybrid languages. In fact, we also added our interviewee, Dr Alfiani, who we then kept in touch for advice seeking throughout the course of this project. In addition, internet access was essential throughout the course of our project not only for information as aforementioned but also to serve as a medium of communication, being able to meet up only once or twice a week to discuss the project. Lastly, Wix was also a very important tool which greatly aided in the creation of our website. It was the last piece of the puzzle and greatly complemented the other aspects of our project, including our in-depth research and analysis.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your Doors to Diplomacy project both on-line and in person.

We strongly believe in the aims of our project and what it seeks to convey to the Singaporean public. It is important that Singaporeans understand that while standard English is important (in reference to the government’s “Speak Good English” campaign), we should still treasure Singlish, which is the product of Singapore's unique demographic environment. As part of our project, we organized several presentations and an exhibition to showcase Singlish and its relation to Singapore’s history as well as its role as a form of Track Four Diplomacy. This not only showcased our project to our fellow schoolmates, but also enabled us to reach out to members of the public. In addition, we spread our message through every day conversation, whether with the canteen stall owner whom we frequently chat to everyday in the midst of buying our lunch or even with friends and family at home. Lastly, we also frequently recommended our website to other, leading to frequent visitations and hopefully, a further spread of our project’s message. Thus, whether through our formal presentation or informal conversation, over the internet or through personal communication, we were able to act as ambassadors and spokespersons for our Doors to Diplomacy project and spread the message that we believe in.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Our project has been extremely important in raising awareness about our national Singaporean identity. Singaporeans use Singlish every day and yet, most are unaware of its significance in defining them as local true-blue Singaporeans. Singlish is the product of Singapore’s rich multicultural heritage and past. Since the days of Sir Stamford Raffles, it had been a vibrant port city composing of citizens from all around the world. This melting pot of different ethnicities and nationalities (majority of which were either the indigenous Malay population, Chinese immigrants, or Indian immigrants). In addition to the influence of the British colonial masters, this gave rise to the modern “Singlish”, a blend of English, Malay, Chinese and Indian languages. Singlish, being intertwined with Singapore’s history and development, is part of our national identity and hence, our team organizes presentations so as to show Singaporeans that the “lah’s” or “sia’s” that they so casually infuse into their speech every day is actually an important part of our local arts scene.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

Our whole project revolves around our community. Firstly, it was essential for us to contact several academics who are more knowledgeable in the field of hybrid languages so as to gain further information which could not be found in our sources. They were able to give new and interesting perspectives to the issue and added further depth to our project. Secondly, without the target audience, our project would be redundant and irrelevant. The whole purpose of our project is to spread the word on the importance of Singlish (a form of Hybrid Language) in Singapore. We started of with our schoolmates, and their warm response was heartening, encouraging us to tackle the mainstream public. Most of our audience surprisingly agreed with our views, and this was definitely a great help to our project.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

In the course of our project, we were required to research on other hybrid languages. What came as a surprise and hopefully, a beneficial consequence of our project were the many close similarities between Singlish, our local hybrid language and many various other hybrid languages. Not only was this evident in the English aspects of Singlish, but also those of the Malay (“Bodoh” means stupid in Singlish), Chinese and its dialects (“Boh gay” means no teeth, “Aiyah” means oh Dear) or Indian (“Goondu” means moron) aspects of Singlish. This greatly amplified our argument that hybrid languages serve as a form of track four diplomacy between certain citizens of nations or regions of the world which adopt hybrid languages. This is because the similar aspects between both hybrid languages may allow for further ease of communication between both individuals.


View our Doors to Diplomacy Project (Project ID: 7310)

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