Are you ready to be impressed and be inspired? I am totally in awe at the courage of Asian singers. I have wanted to write about this but it took this Malaysian singer, Shila Amzah to make me jump out of bed to start writing. I just have to share this with everyone. She not only sings in Mandarin, she speaks the language fluently too. She is a polyglot. Recently, Shila challenged herself by being in an all professional Mandarin singing competition 我是歌手 (湖南卫视官方频道 China HuNanTV Official Channel ).
Before this, I have only been watching this show 我是歌手 because of a singer from Hong Kong, G.E.M., who has a strong velvety voice that touches your heartstrings, especially when she sings ballads. G.E.M. is also a polyglot, native Cantonese who speaks and sings in Mandarin and in English effortlessly.
I can totally relate to them even though I only sing for myself. Singing takes away a lot of the difficulties to connect with the intonation of the Chinese language and almost makes it safe to begin with. Immersion in the language increases the chances of removing these difficulties even more as the ears are trained to adapt to listening only the sounds that most described the verbal expressions.
Does Shila read Mandarin well too? I would certainly hope so as she seems to sing every word of the Chinese song so perfectly too. Even if she doesn’t, her ability to tune in to the lyrics of every Chinese song proves that she is not just an ordinary polyglot.
For us in Asia, to know more than 3 languages is a present in itself. There is no need to think of travelling far just to get a piece of the pie. Look around Asia, you will understand just why we are so hungry to get to know our neighbouring countries. There are still so life experiences which make Asia so attractive. Language is the only tool we have that travels with us all our lives. It is the expression that comes right off our mouth. From the bellies of the heart, the mouth speaks. With language, we are able to see the wonders of other cultures.
There is very little effort needed to understand the lyrics if a song is sung well. I am just fortunate to be able to read, write and speak Mandarin. So my days go by quite quickly because I don’t always have to depend on one language to keep my days occupied. My mum would speak to me in Malay, my brother and sister speak to me in Hokkien (we grew up in a Hokkien neighbourhood – its wierd situation but we speak this language like day), at home I speak all three languages with my daughter, the people in my neighbourhood also offer to speak in any language that is most comfortable for communication. Chinese, Malay, Indian, Caucasian, Eurasian, Vietnamese, Indonesians, Javanese, Filipinos and more. Asia, and indeed the world seems such a beautiful place now if you just think of the blessings that a multilingual and multicultural society offers to you. Don’t you think?