“If you lose that Chinese education and you go completely English-educated, you will lose that drive, that self-confidence. That is what is wrong.
The danger is, if you are Chinese-educated and only Chinese-educated, you are monolingual, then your source of literature will be communist. That is big trouble.
But if you are bilingual, you have binocular vision, then you see the world in 3-D.”
In 1977, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, made this statement in one of his parliamentary speeches.
I’d always felt that this speech was genius. And especially so, because this portion seemed to be meant for the ears of the Chinese-educated in Singapore.
Apart from urging the English-educated to “have more drive”, Mr. Lee was urging the Chinese-educated to “have more (Western/ English/ modern world) common sense”.
Now that’s pretty deep, if you think closely about it.
Mr Lee is actually saying that the English-educated is not as driven and determined as the Chinese-educated (which is sort of true), and conversely, he is telling the Chinese-educated to abide and play by the dominant rules set by the Western world. That is, to even try to embrace and accept ways of capitalism instead of trying to challenge and topple the entire system which is driving the modern world today.
“Play the game of the modern world for the benefit of Singapore, our young nation, you smart, ambitious, rash Singaporean-Chinese folks!”–I think this is what he was saying.
Many times, most Singaporeans don’t see the full value of being effectively billingual in English + one other language. To most of us, it’s just so natural and basic that we expect everyone else to be effectively billingual as well.
But after you leave Singapore, you’d realise that not everyone is billingual–and that’s where you start to milk all the benefits.
But I guess it’s pretty awesome to be fluent in both English and Chinese, especially in this age where China is driving the world’s growth. I know “communist thinking”, do you? Haha.
Let’s apply the wisdom behind this quote to also, the Finnish context.
Imagine that your native language is NOT English. For example, the Finnish boyfriend’s native language is Finnish, and isn’t it OMG SO AMAZING THAT MY BOYFRIEND THINKS IN FINNISH??? (*mega fangirls*)
This always happens! My ex-boyfriend is Japanese by the way, and everytime he speaks in Japanese I’d be doki-doki and thinking “OMG why so amazing, this guy is speaking Japanese!” -swoons-
So…This current Boyfriend of 5 years thinks in Finnish, writes in Finnish, is not very good in Swedish (Apparently some Finns think it is a national disgrace to be fluent in Swedish). He’s fluent in English and thinks a bit sometimes in Japanese, and I am trying to teach him basic Chinese now, like “gong xi gong xi”.
Yet, even IF a person is effectively bilingual in Finnish and English, he would not know what a non-Finn does not know, or finds interesting about Finland.
And that’s where a market/philosophical/ communication gap lies. All interesting random stuffs in Finland are in Finnish. Finns and maybe even some foreigners who have been in Finland since forever would know this intuitively.
So, even though Finland is a very, very interesting country, most foreigners do not even catch a glimpse of this part of the country because they do not know the Finnish language well enough.
Even if some foreigners see this precious, unique part of Finnish culture, they fail to articulate this “interesting aspect” to the world, simply because they do not speak fluently the other language which is considered “de facto”/ “lingua franca”/ “business language” of the working world, English.
Do you think how you approach Sauna is how a Finn were to approach Sauna, if you don’t speak Finnish? What a joke. If you don’t speak Finnish, whatever you know about sauna, its history, culture, way of life, history, philosophy, what it means to a Finn–will just be the tip of the iceberg. It’d even be worse if the communication for AWESOME OMG SAUNA is limited, since Finns tend to be people of few words, and coming from a relatively isolated country they do not know what foreigners out of EU/ EEA will find interesting. Especially suspicious Asian tourists.
Do you see the clear limitations in communication now, between a Finn and a non-Finn? A Finn would speak Finnish whenever possible, because it feels natural and even patriotic for him to speak only Finnish. From what I hear from some of my Finnish friends, there is even fear that one day, a Finn would lose his ability to speak and write Finnish as fluently to English or some other languages, and Finns are therefore very protective of Finnish language, literature and culture.
Language therefore, is the first and ultimate discriminator, even though discrimination is perhaps not a deliberate intention in the Finnish context.
But well, it’s always a losing war if you focus on “defence”, and look inwards. What the Japanese does is to focus on “soft attack”, and look outwards. Japanese folks are very good at making all things-Japanese look super cool, and they practically invade the whole world with soft power–their culture.
Ultimately however, they have to do this AWESOME JAPANESE CULTURAL INVASION via English. ^^ And once you are convinced of how cool, interesting, cute, OMG amazing Japanese culture is, you’d naturally want to learn Japanese.
And THIS. Is how your protect culture and if you’re more ambitious, invade the world. MUHAHAHAHAHA.
So why isn’t Finland doing this yet? It’s very simple, lah.
The answer is because Finns are focusing on the wrong strategy of “cultural defence”. They should instead learn from the Japanese to do “soft, subtle cultural attack”.
If Finns want to promote Finnish culture, tourism, philosophy and way of life, they should be learning from the Japanese to make Finnish stuffs “cool” to the whole world. They cannot do this without the basic premise of communicating boldly in English why their culture is super awesome. They also cannot do this without knowing exactly what foreigners find awesome about the culture.
But how should the Finn invade the whole world through soft power? I know some of the secrets of exactly how. But why should I tell you? 😉 Come and bribe me first.
Good morning, I’m going to sleep! 😀