Wan Ah Boy 萬小弟

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萬宗綸(暱稱萬小弟),90後的台灣人,畢業於台灣大學地理學系及新加坡國立大學語言學系。在新加坡生活了短短一年的時間內,他透過文字把日常生活中的細膩觀察與真實經驗撰寫成文章,之後編成一本書。書名《安娣,給我一份摻摻!透視進擊的小國新加坡》凸顯著濃厚的新加坡道地語言文化特色。把新加坡視為第二個家的萬小弟也是《轉角國際》、鳴人堂》、以及《關鍵評論網東南亞的專欄作者,撰寫與新加坡有關的文章。這次採訪這位年輕人,旨在瞭解他如何在新加坡入境隨俗,以深入瞭解這塊熱帶小島國。

昇:談談你當初為何會選擇到新加坡國立大學念研究所?

綸:因為原本碩士班就想要出國了。但還不想那麼快就跑去美國,想去近一點卻又很西方的地方,所以選了用英文教學的香港和新加坡。然後我要念社會語言學,而這兩個地方也是社會語言學最強的地方。可是那時候因為香港那邊把我的托福成績單給弄丟了,我就被拒了。其實寄到新加坡的成績單也弄丟了。但是國大沒有因此而不理我。直到他們給「有條件入取信」的時候,我才知道成績單弄丟了!

昇:英語對一般台灣人來說是一個障礙。那你是用什麼方式把英文學好的?是從小就有在學英文嗎?

綸:我從小一就在外面學英文,所以學英文也學了十六年了。大學念地理學的時候,雖然上課是用中文溝通,但是教材和課本都是英文的。所以我的學術英文還蠻熟練的。

昇:你到國大唸書的時候,是第一次到新加坡嗎?

綸:不是。我提交申請的時候有去過一次。我記得是去了五天。

昇:在你第一次到新加坡之前,你對這國家的認識或想像是怎樣?

綸:其實我去新加坡之前,對這地方完全沒印象。但我念小學的時候有看過電影《小孩不笨》。我甚至不知道歌手林俊傑是新加坡人。

昇:對新加坡不了解的情況之下,你是抱著什麼樣的心態去那裡念研究所?例如:如何在這個地方生活?

綸:我有跑去師大的東亞所修東南亞的課。張碧君老師的專長就是新加坡。所以我就特別去修這門課。在這情況下,我覺得我對新加坡的瞭解還蠻OK的。我是先靠論文瞭解新加坡,然後才去。過後發現論文描述的跟現實沒什麼差距。學長姐都寫的蠻真實的!

昇:在新加坡的時候,你面臨了哪些挑戰?

綸:生活太無聊了,覺得沒什麼地方可以去。新加坡沒有夜市,店都在百貨商場裡面。路上沒有店,讓我很不習慣。因為我很習慣走在路上逛,而不是走在百貨商場裡面逛。(昇:你怎麼解決這個問題?)無法解決,哈哈哈!每當遇到什麼跟台灣不一樣的事情就會趕快跑去問人或查論文。所以瞭解新加坡就變成我的生活重心。

昇:在新加坡的那段時期,你是否有在那環境裡保留自己的台灣人主體?

綸:完全沒有!我在新加坡遇到的台灣人都很奇怪。因為他們去新加坡很多都是搬移過去的。家長覺得去那裡會比較有未來。那時候他們有一些剛好比較勢利眼,會歧視馬來人。這讓我覺得很不開心。結果我就不跟他們來往。我有一位很好的台灣朋友。他在南洋理工大學念博士。他是我大學就認識的朋友,所以我們兩個就相依為命,哈哈哈!因為他也是不喜歡在那裡遇到的台灣人。(昇:是不是因為台灣人都缺乏種族或族群的概念,而導致他們會對非華族產生歧視?)我覺得台灣人沒有種族或族群的概念。因為大部分都是漢人。然後有些台灣人會很容易講錯話。但是他們也不會覺得自己講錯話。

昇:是不是因台語曾經有一段時間被禁用,所以現在很多年輕一代的台灣人的台語能力都很不好?

綸:因為台語被視為很沒水準的表達方式。有人會笑台灣國語。台灣國語是指被閩南語影響的口音。然後會變成綜藝節目拿來笑的對象。這到現在還是這樣。但是那個東西是跟國語運動有關係的。早期那個貶低本土方言的過程當中,形成了我們對於本土方言腔調的排視或歧視。你應該有聽過有台灣人說「你看那個人說台語,好沒有水準喔!」所以在台灣,語言已經被分成不同的階級。如果你用台語就是很沒水準。那如果想表現出一種姿態,你就要用國語。

在政治場合你會用國語。如果今天有立委用台語來質詢,就會有人覺得很沒水準。

昇:如果有一天台灣政府想推廣台語,讓年輕人學好台語而讓它成為台灣的共同語言。你會認為有必要嗎?

綸:我覺得不需要把台語變成台灣人的共同語言。因為這件事情的政治後果太多了。客家人、原住民、及外省族群的反彈一定會很大。我們一直都有對「台語」這個詞的質疑。他們常常會問:為什麼閩南語就是台語?那台語可不可以是原住民語?可不可以是客家語?為什麼只有閩南語霸佔了「台語」這個稱呼?所以我覺得把台語拉抬到台灣共同語這件事情來講,政治後果太多。我不會覺得這樣做是OK的。但我覺得回到讓各個族群的人使用他們自己的語言是沒問題的。

昇:身為台灣人,你認為星國政府多年來以「講華語運動」的方式鼓勵人民多用華語是個有效的策略嗎?又或者說這樣的方式可能會帶來某些看不見的反效果

綸:以推廣華語來講,當然是正面的。它的確成功的推廣華語在新加坡的使用。但是它有很多副作用。比如說:方言被消滅。又或者是近幾年來,又炒北京標準華文的事情。我會覺得近幾年本來應該是要朝新加坡華語來走。讓大家覺得這是我們的語言。我們的語言還有情感上接近的感覺,會比較想講。而不是朝著一個外面的標準,大家不會更想講。

昇:曾經就有人說到台灣人(尤其是年輕一代)都缺乏國際觀。像是對世界國家地理以及台灣以外發生的事情都沒什麼概念。你覺得這是否是教育的問題還是因為台灣大眾媒體在操作新聞報道上的不足?

綸:都有。你看我們的地理課本就很好笑。我們地理課本是歷史;歷史課本是神話。現在地理課本可以看它怎麼教非洲。就是沒有與時俱進,很刻板印象。然後美國是單獨一章。一個章節都在講美國、一個章節都在講日本,就是要看版本。有的版本會講北美,但只會講美國,不會講加拿大。台灣的國際觀就是美國、中國和日本。其他地方就是東南亞還有非洲。(昇:那麼台灣的媒體是否也對這問題產生影響?我發現台灣的電視新聞一般都只報導國內新聞。所以是不是因為這樣而導致台灣人缺乏國際觀?)我有發現新加坡的電視台都在報導國外的事情,不太會報新加坡的事情。所以我覺得是相反!如果你看公廣集團的公視或客家電視台會有國際新聞。但這兩個都不是收視率高的電視台。媒體人會說,因為大家都不愛看,收視率底,就沒辦法交代,沒有廣告效益,何必這樣做呢?為何不報多一點行車記錄器?為何不報多一點社會新聞或立法院打架?這些會更有收視率啊!每一分鐘的收視率數字來決定廣告收入。然後你發現國際新聞的橋段收視率掉下去,就不想做啦!公廣集團是全民的電視台,預算都是從政府來的。他們不用在乎廣告,所以他可以報半小時的國際新聞。像我現在在幫《轉角國際》寫文章,是一個UDN底下的網站。他們也做得非常辛苦。因為他們一直都在幫UDN賠錢,都不知道什麼時候會關掉。若完全看不見作這網站的效益的時候,就把它盤掉。這是個惡性循環。因為大家不愛看導致老闆不想做,就看不到國際新聞,你就不會想要知道外面發生什麼事。(昇:這樣子就會把台灣變成一個封閉的國家?)我有聽過一個原因就是台灣都隔絕於國際事務之外。所有的國際主持都不讓我們參加。大家都知道那些事情要幹嘛。因為不管聯合國發生什麼事情,都跟我們無關啊。我們也沒有參與的權利。那我幹嘛看?所以全部加起來就是一個惡性循環!

昇:有哪方面新加坡可向台灣學習/台灣可向新加坡學習?

綸:老實說,很多人問我這個問題。但我都回答不出來。(昇:以你的觀察?)比如說剛提到的媒體啊。台灣媒體可以像新加坡媒體一樣國際化一點;新加坡媒體可以像台灣媒體一樣本土化一點。其他方面的話,我覺得這兩個國家差別太多了。要怎麼互相比較,我也不太知道。每個地方的歷史脈絡都不一樣。大家的價值觀也不一樣。如果要說國際環境的話,台灣可以向新加坡學習的是外來人才的政策。基本上台灣無法吸引任何的外來人才過來。我們的政策太保護本國人力。不管白領或藍領都一樣,完全沒有誘因吸引他們來。然後也沒有什麼外資想要投資台灣。我最近在看求職欄。我深深感覺到台灣真的沒有工作,機會很少!

昇:你如何看待南向政策?

綸:我看不到政府在南向政策的實際作為,不知道在幹嘛。(昇:但台灣有滿多的來自東南亞的移工。那是不是南向政策響應後的成果?)移工都一直很多,跟南向政策沒什麼關係。南向政策只是利用這點來說我們有連結。我舉個例子:台灣一直都有出國獎學金。現在台灣有一個是專門給台灣人到東南亞留學的獎學金。但它有一個評分項目是:你申請的學校的QS排名多少?東南亞的大學沒有幾間是在上面啊!除了NUS(新加坡國立大學)、NTU(南洋理工大學)或UM(馬來亞大學)之外,其他的都不在前百名。排名就佔了百分之十或二十。最後它會影響申請人的總成績,拿不到錢。除非申請人是申請NUSNTUUM,才能申請獎學金。這就是很好笑的一個政策!

昇:假如有台灣人想到新加坡唸書,你會給予他們什麼建議?

綸:我的建議就是:想清楚才去。你要認識那個地方才去。你不要去到那邊才怪別人排擠你。因為很多台灣人會覺得自己被新加坡人歧視。因為有很多台灣人去了那邊之後,覺得“為什麼他們都跟我講Singlish?我不想學!他們還糾正我的英語發音”。其實那個糾正是一個排外的動作,而不是真的在糾正他的發音。我覺得他們應該認識到台灣使用的英語腔調是美國為中心,而且是加了台灣特色在裡面。新加坡使用的是加了新加坡特色的英國腔調以及新加坡試的英語。就這幾個之間是平起平坐的。他們不應該覺得他們不想要使用Singlish,覺得很不好聽,再來怪人家排擠他。我覺得入境隨俗是基本道理。他們堅持使用他們所認為的American English。他們會反過來說新加坡人根本不懂什麼是American English。但他們也不知道自己講的不是American English。他們沒有認知到自己的英文是台灣特色。但是他們又不願意承認。他們覺得台灣英文是負面標籤。可是我認為這不是什麼負面標籤。這世界有那麼多種腔調,很正常。他們不應該認為新加坡人糾正他們的英文是在糾正他們的美式腔調。他們應該反過來說自己講的就是台灣的英文,應該尊重我用台灣的英文,同時我也尊重你用新加坡的英文。基本態度應該是這樣,才不會有那麼多衝突。再來就是新加坡的生活也沒有很有趣,所以大家想清楚才去!

萬小弟FB粉絲頁

Alan Wan (a.k.a Wan Ah Boy), a Taiwanese from the post-90s generation, graduated from the National Taiwan University majoring in Geography, and the National University of Singapore majoring in Language Studies. In a short span of one year in Singapore, he documented his detailed observations and real experiences from daily life into articles, and later compiled them into a book. The title of the book “Auntie, One Rojak! Understanding the Little Red Dot – Singapore”, highlights the richness of the language and culture of Singapore. Wan Ah Boy, who regards Singapore as his second home, is also a columnist for ‘udn Global’, ‘Opinion udn‘, and ‘The News Lens Asean‘. He writes about things related to Singapore. This time I interviewed this young gentleman to understand how he blends himself into the society of Singapore in order to learn about this tiny tropical island state.

JL: Why did you chose to study at the National University of Singapore?

AW: Because I wanted to go abroad for my graduate studies. But I was not ready to go to the States. I wanted to go to a place that is closer but is a westernized society. So I opt for Hong Kong and Singapore, where English is the teaching language. Then I wanted to study sociolinguistics, and these two places are also the strongest in sociolinguistics. But at that time, because my TOEFL transcript went lost in Hong Kong, I was rejected. In fact, the transcript sent to Singapore was also lost. However, NUS still gave me a chance. I didn’t know that the transcript was lost until they gave me the conditional offer letter!

JL: English is an obstacle for the average Taiwanese. So how do you learn English well? Have you been learning English since childhood?

AW: I have been learning English since I was a child, so I have been learning English for 16 years. When I was studying geography during undergrad days, the teaching materials and textbooks are in English even though the class is conducted in Chinese. So my academic English is quite good.

JL: When you were in NUS, was it the first time that you went to Singapore?

AW: No. I have been there once when I submitted my application. I remember it was five days.

JL: Before you first came to Singapore, what was your understanding or imagination of this country?

AW: Before I went to Singapore, I didn’t have any impression of this place. But when I was in elementary school, I watched the movie “I Not Stupid”. I didn’t even know that the singer JJ Lin is a Singaporean.

JL: Without knowing much about Singapore, what kind of mentality did you had when you went there to study? For example: How do you live in this place?

AW: I attended a class on Southeast Asia at National Taiwan Normal University. Professor Zhang Bijun’s area of specialty is Singapore. So I went to attend this course. Under this circumstance, I felt that my understanding of Singapore was quite OK. I learned about Singapore through thesis paper first before I went. Later, I realised what was described in the paper is no different from reality. What my school senior wrote are quite real.

JL: What challenges did you face when you were in Singapore?

AW: Life is too boring, and I feel that there is no place to go. There is no night market in Singapore, and the stores are in shopping malls. There are no shops along the street, so I am not used to it. Because I am used to walking along on the streets instead of walking in the shopping mall. (JL: How did you solve this problem?) Unable to solve, hahaha! Whenever I encounter something different from Taiwan, I will quickly ask people or check the thesis paper. Therefore, understanding Singapore became the focus in my life.

JL: During the period in Singapore, did you try to maintain your own Taiwanese subjectivity in that environment?

AW: Absolutely not! The Taiwanese I met in Singapore are very strange. Most of them moved to Singapore as their parents feel that their future will be better over there. At that time, some of them tend to be quite snobbish and would discriminate against the Malays. This makes me feel very unhappy. As a result, I stopped hanging out with them. I have a very good Taiwanese friend. He is a PhD student at Nanyang Technological University. He is a friend that I know since university, so both of us would always stick together, hahaha! Because he also dislike the Taiwanese people whom he met in Singapore. (JL: Is it because Taiwanese people does not have the concept of race or ethnicity, which leads them to discriminate against non-Chinese?) I think Taiwanese people do not have the concept of race or ethnicity. Because most of them are Han Chinese. And some Taiwanese tend to say incorrect things. But they don’t feel that they are wrong.

JL: Is it because Taiwanese language was banned for a period of time, therefore a lot of young Taiwanese these days have a poor ability in speaking that language?

AW: Because Taiwanese language is regarded as a very uncivilized form of expression. Some people will laugh at Taiwanese Mandarin. Taiwanese Mandarin refers to the accent that is influenced by Minnan language. Then it will become a subject to be laugh at during variety shows. This is still the case for now. But that was related to the Mandarin movement. During the process of belittling local dialects in the early days, we formed our discrimination against local dialects. You must have heard from Taiwanese people saying, “Look at that person speaking in Taiwanese, that’s so uncivilized!”. So in Taiwan, language has been divided into different classes. If you use Taiwanese, it is considered as no class. If you want to put on a gesture, you have to use Mandarin.

In a political event, you will use Mandarin. If a legislator uses Taiwanese language for interpellation, some people will think he or she is very uncivilized.

JL: If one day the Taiwanese government wants to promote Taiwanese language, allow young people to learn Taiwanese language and turn it into a common language in Taiwan. Do you think it is necessary?

AW: I don’t think there is a need to turn Taiwanese language into a common language. Because there are too much political consequences in this matter. It will certainty provoke a strong reaction among the Hakkas, aborigines, and other ethnic groups. We have always questioned the word “Taiwanese”. They often asked: Why is only Minnan considered as ‘Taiwanese’ language? Can Taiwanese language be considered an aboriginal language? Can it be Hakka? Why is it only the Minnan language that is occupying the term ‘Taiwanese’? Therefore, I feel that there are too many political consequences to pull the Taiwanese language up into the Taiwanese common language. I don’t think it is okay to do this. But I think it’s okay to allow people of all ethnic groups to use their own language.

JL: As a Taiwanese, do you think that the ‘Speak Mandarin Campaign’ pushed by the Singapore government for many years has been effective in encouraging people to use Mandarin? Is this an effective strategy? Or will it create an invisible form of counterproductive result?

AW: In terms of promoting Mandarin, of course it is positive. It has indeed successfully pushed the use of Mandarin in Singapore. But it has a lot of side effects. For example: the dialects are eliminated. In recent years, there is also the issue of Beijing standard Chinese. I would think going in the direction of Singaporean Chinese should be the way to go. Let everyone feel this is our language. When we have an emotionally attachment towards our language, we would be willing to use it more often. If we follow a foreign standard, everyone would not want to speak the language at all.

JL: It has been said that Taiwanese (especially the younger generation) lack of international perspective. They seems to have no concept of the world’s national geography and things happening outside of Taiwan. Do you think this is an issue of education or is it because of the shortcoming in the news reports by the Taiwanese mass media?

AW: Yes, it could be both of these. You see, our geography textbooks are very funny. Our geography textbooks are history; history textbooks are myths. You can look how the geography textbooks teach about Africa. It is not keeping up with the times and is very stereotyped. Then the United States is in a separate chapter. One chapter is about the United States, and one chapter is about Japan, depending on the version. Some versions will talk about North America, but they will only cover the United States and not Canada. Taiwan’s international perspective is always the United States, China and Japan. Other places will be Southeast Asia and Africa. (JL: So does the Taiwanese media also the caused of this issue? I found that Taiwan’s TV news generally reports domestic news only. So is it because of this reason that the Taiwanese people lack of international perspective?) I found that Singapore’s TV stations are always reporting international news and very little news about Singapore. So I think it is the opposite! If you look at the Public Television Service or Hakka TV under Taiwan Broadcasting System, there will be international news. But these two are not TV stations with high viewerships. The media people says that everyone does not like to watch international news, the viewerships are low, there is no way to deliver, no advertising benefits, why bother? Why not show a little bit more of dash cams recordings? Why not report more social news or fight in Legislative Yuan? These will attract higher viewerships! The viewerships of each minute is used to determine the advertising revenue. Then when you find that the viewerships during international news segment falls, you don’t want to do it! The Taiwan Broadcasting System is a TV station for all people, and the budget is from the government. They don’t care about advertising, so they can report half an hour of international news. Like I am writing an article for ‘udn Global’, which is a website under the UDN. They are also struggling. Because they have been helping UDN in making losing money, they don’t know when it will shut down. If you can’t see the benefits of the website at all, just shut it down. This is a vicious circle. Because everyone doesn’t like to watch, and the boss doesn’t want to do it, they won’t be able to watch international news, and you wouldn’t want to know what’s going on outside. (JL: This would turn Taiwan into a closed-off country?) I have heard one of the reason is that Taiwan is isolated from international affairs. All international hosts do not allow us to participate. Everyone knows what is going on. Because no matter what happens to the United Nations, it has nothing to do with us. We also have no rights to participate. Then why should I watch? So all together is a vicious circle!

JL: In what ways can Singapore learn from Taiwan / Taiwan can learn from Singapore?

AW: To be honest, many people asked me this question. But I can’t answer it. (JL: Based on your observations?) For example, the media which I just mentioned. The Taiwanese media can try to be more international like the Singapore media; the Singapore media can try to be more localized like the Taiwanese media. In other respects, I feel that there are too many differences between the two countries. I don’t know how to make comparison between each other. The history of each place is different. Everyone has different set of values. If you want to talk about the international environment, Taiwan can learn from Singapore in terms of the foreign talent policy. Basically, it is impossible for Taiwan to attract any foreign talents. Our policy is over-protecting our labor force. Whether it is a white-collar or blue-collar, there are no incentives to attract them. Then there is no foreign investment that wants to invest in Taiwan. I was looking at the jobs listings lately. I feel deeply that there is really no job opportunity in Taiwan!

JL: What is your view on the Southbound Policy?

AW: I don’t see the the government going far in the Southbound Policy. I don’t know what they are doing. (JL: But Taiwan has a lot of migrant workers from Southeast Asia. Is that the result of the Southbound Policy?) There has always been a lot of migrant workers, and it has nothing to do with the Southbound Policy. The Southbound Policy is just making use of this to say that we have connections. Let me give you an example. Taiwan often provide scholarships for people to go abroad for studies. There is now a scholarship in Taiwan specifically for Taiwanese to study in Southeast Asia. But there is this particular score section: What is the QS rankings of the school that you are applying? There are only a few universities in Southeast Asia that are ranked on the top! Except for NUS (National University of Singapore), NTU (Nanyang Technological University) or UM (University of Malaya), the others are not in the top 100. The rankings account for 10% or 20% of the application result. In the end, it will affect the applicant’s total score and will not get the money. Scholarships can only be applied if the applicant is applying for NUS, NTU or UM. This is a very funny policy!

JL: If there are Taiwanese who are thinking of studying in Singapore, what advice would you give them?

AW: My advice is: Think clearly before you go. You have to know that place well before you go. Don’t go there and blame others for not accepting you. Because many Taiwanese feel that they are discriminated against by Singaporeans. Because there were many Taiwanese who have gone there, thought “Why are they talking to me in Singlish? I don’t want to learn! They even want to correct my English pronunciation.” Actually that is an act of discrimination and is not really correcting his or her pronunciation. I think they should realise that the English accent used in Taiwan is following America, and it is mixed with Taiwanese characteristics. Singapore uses British accent with Singaporean characteristics and Singapore-style English. It is considered equal among these few. They shouldn’t blame others for not accepting them because they don’t want to use Singlish as they feel that it sounds bad. I think that to blend yourself into a foreign society is a basic thing. They insist on using the American English that they know. They will turn it around and say that Singaporeans simply don’t know what American English is. But they don’t know that they are not speaking in American English. They did not realise that their English is of Taiwanese characteristics. But they are not willing to admit it. They feel that Taiwanese English has a negative label to it. But I think this is not a negative label. There are so many accents in the world, and that is normal. They should not think that Singaporeans correcting their English means correcting their American accents. They should instead say that they are speaking in Taiwanese English. They should respect the Taiwanese English that I am using, and I also respect the Singapore English you are using. The basic attitude should be like this, so there will not be so many conflicts. In addition, life in Singapore isn’t so interesting, so everyone should think clearly before going!

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Interview conducted on 02 April 2017.
Translation by Jason JS Lee

(All images taken from Wan Ah Boy FB Fanpage)