Category Archives: culture

Learning About Language in Singapore

By Eric Chow

Over summer break, I traveled to Singapore to visit some friends and family and to learn more about the country. When I arrived, I was interested to see how many different combinations of languages are spoken there. Something I noticed when I was there was that both Mandarin and English were spoken in equal frequency. However, in some cases, the English that was spoken oscillated between American and British styles of English. Coming across someone who spoke perfectly fluent English was few and far between. In Singapore, English is spoken in two main forms: Singaporean Standard English (indistinguishable grammatically from Standard British English) and Singapore Colloquial English (better known as Singlish).

Photo by Zhu Hongzhi on Unsplash

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city, with 37% of its population born outside the country. Singaporeans, even those of the same ethnic group, have many different first languages and cultures. Standard Singapore English is the standard form of English used in Singapore. It generally resembles British English and is often used in more formal settings such as the workplace or when communicating with people of higher authority such as teachers, bosses, and government officials. In Singapore, English is a working language that serves the economy and development and is associated with the broader global community. Meanwhile, the rest of the languages spoken are “mother tongues” that are associated with the country’s culture. Although Standard Singapore English is mainly influenced by British English and, recently, American English, there are other languages that also contribute to its use on a regular basis. Most Singaporeans speak more than one language, with many speaking three to four. Most Singaporean children are brought up bilingual. They are introduced to Malay, Chinese, Tamil, or Singapore Colloquial English (Singlish) as their native languages, depending on their families’ ethnic backgrounds. 

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The role that English plays is so important that the Singapore government aimed to improve English speaking throughout the country. The wide use of Singlish led the government to launch the Speak Good English Movement in Singapore in 2000 to replace Singlish with Standard English. This movement was made to show the need for Singaporeans to speak Standard English. Nowadays, all children in schools are being taught Standard English with one of the other official languages being taught as a second language. It was so fascinating to me to see how languages have developed in other countries with a lot of cultural diversity. If you have a chance to, I recommend visiting Singapore to check this out for yourself!

Featured Image by Jeremy Julian on Unsplash

Eric is a first year undergraduate majoring in Philosophy, politics, and Economics and Business Administration. He spent most of his life in San Diego but he moved to Shanghai and then Taiwan. Being an international student, he understands the struggles of crossing a new language barrier. He is both a native speaker of Chinese and English and has extensive experience in mentoring and public speaking. On campus, he is involved with Troy Camp which specializes in both academic and non-academic mentorship. Outside of campus, he plays the piano, works out, swims, and reads comic books.

Developing Cultural Competency in Occupational Therapy

By Leah Mary King

Recently I have been having fascinating conversations about cultural competency and cultural awareness. I was first introduced to the idea of cultural competency a little while ago and found it to be an interesting and important concept. My understanding of cultural competency is as a way to understand and invite people to share about their culture in order for one to become more “competent” in that culture.

While I know this term was coined in an effort to encourage more cultural appreciation and inclusivity in education, research, and work, the word “competency” did not encapsulate the understanding of culture I was striving for. Just because I have a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Area Studies, have traveled around the world studying culture, and shadowed patients from different cultures doesn’t mean I’m competent in their culture. I will never be competent in someone else’s culture. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not striving to be culturally aware and respectful. I constantly check my assumptions and try not to place my western viewpoints onto people I meet. 

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As a conversation partner with the American Language Institute, something as simple as using Line, WhatsApp, WeChat, Or KakaoTalk instead of using text messages makes the students I work with more comfortable texting in English. As a future occupational therapist, I anticipate that I will work with people from very different language and cultural backgrounds. In my fieldwork and volunteer experiences I’ve heard many therapists and doctors say that “the client needs an interpreter because they can’t speak English”. Although it is probably unintentional, this Western viewpoint blames the clients we serve instead of working with them in a culturally sensitive way. Instead, the therapist must take responsibility for meeting the clients where they are by having an interpreter for the therapist instead of for the client. This is how therapists can build an empathic and cultural bridge when serving their clients. 

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Continue reading Developing Cultural Competency in Occupational Therapy

Handpulled Noodles: A Taste of Home

By Cassandra Liu

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

After every hard day, depressing event, or stressful moment, the first meal I turn to is one that has been passed down to me through many generations of my family. It is our family’s version of a classic Chinese noodle dish – handpulled noodles. We call it Lā Miàn, which literally translates to “pull noodles” in English. Paired with a vinegary, spicy dressing sauce, this dish is something that never fails to bring me comfort and even a sprinkle of happiness. 

Handmade noodles have an incredibly long and rich history. The oldest known origin of the noodles was traced to an area in Northwestern China and its recipe has diverged into countless variations with differing ingredients, noodle width length, and ways of making the noodles. This is how my family makes it:

Photo by Sarah Boyle on Unsplash

My family uses a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. We begin by adding water to flour with a ratio of 1 water to 2 flour. Then, add a pinch of salt to the mixture and knead until a rough dough is formed. Cover the mixture with either a damp towel or cling wrap and let the mixture rest for around 10 to 15 minutes so that the dough is more workable. After that short period of time, continue kneading the dough until it is smooth, which might take around 2 minutes. Be sure to not overwork the dough, or else the gluten will develop and the noodles will become too tough. After the dough is smooth, divide it into two pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll them out into a rectangle shape with about a 0.5 inch thickness. Coat a plate in oil, coat both sides of the rectangle dough in oil, and place the dough on the oiled plate. Cover the plate in cling wrap and let it rest at room temperature for an hour and a half.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

Next, bring a pot of water to a boil. While the water is boiling, remove the dough from the oiled plate and cut the dough into 0.5 inch strips. Grab a strip and gently pull the ends in opposite directions. While pulling the strips apart, gently move your arms up and down and let the dough bounce against the tabletop, which helps the dough stretch out even more to your desired length. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook the noodles for 2 minutes, until the noodles are chewy and cooked through. Drizzle some sesame oil over the noodles to prevent them from sticking together while preparing the sauce. 

To make the sauce, mince garlic, ginger, and scallions. Place the chopped vegetables over the noodles along with some red pepper flakes. Heat up some neutral oil in a pan and pour over the chopped vegetables. Listen to and savor the sound as the hot oil fries the garnish. Add soy sauce and black vinegar to taste and enjoy!

Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

Summer or winter, rain or shine, this dish is something that my family eats at least once every two weeks. Pair it with some boiled vegetables, and you have yourself a hearty and delicious meal! Whenever I’m feeling homesick, I come back to these noodles and I’m immediately taken right back to my family. 

Featured Image by Önder Örtel on Unsplash

Cassandra is a recent graduate who studied Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She grew up in the Bay Area and speaks Mandarin fluently, a language she uses to interact with her parents and grandparents. On campus, she was involved in Trojan Shelter, Wazo Connect, and worked as a research assistant in the Brain and Music Lab at the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, among other things. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys cooking, playing music with her friends, and exploring the best food places in LA.