This afternoon, DS and I had to pick up my niece who was arriving into Singapore and putting up with us for a few nights. We had arranged to meet her at one of the MRT stations in the East. As we were early, we decided to go into this bakery shop outside the MRT station to have a drink and light snacks while waiting for my niece.
There was only one staff on duty and we approached her by speaking in English. It is natural for us to use English since it is our official language. As she gave us the impression that she could not understand English, we switched to Mandarin instead.
After making his order, out of curiosity, DS asked (in his half-past six Mandarin) if she speaks English at all . She said yes. Giving her the benefit of doubt, DS went on to tell that she should use English more, as practice helps improve her English ability.
To our surprise, she responded by saying that there is no need to do so as eventually everyone will speak Mandarin.
Wow, what an attitude and mindset?! I began to wonder if this young lady really knows English, and how she actually came to such a conclusion? Does she think that Chinese language is going to take over the whole world, including Singapore?
And it also makes me wonder, what happened to the minimum requirement for English language ability for foreigners doing customer-facing jobs? This is not the first time I have had such an encounter. I have come across many situations where I was forced to speak Mandarin in places like restaurants, retail outlets, bookstore etc.
This reminds me of a sad case that happened in June 2011. A Indonesian maid-wannabe committed suicide in Singapore after failing her English entry test for the third time. Isn’t it more important for front-line service staff to be equipped at least with conversational English ability than a domestic maid whose customers are mainly the family that she works for?