SINGAPORE: A foreigner took to the subreddit r/askSingapore on Jan 12 to share his encounter with a Singaporean salesperson because, in the middle of their conversation, the Singaporean said he wished he had the foreigner’s “American accent.”
“Was shopping and speaking to a salesperson. Randomly 10 minutes into the conversation, he said he wish he had my accent (American),” he wrote. Curious about the remark, the foreigner asked the Singaporean, “Why? What’s wrong with the Singaporean accent?”
The Singaporean then told him it had “something to the effect of low class.”
“But I totally didn’t really understand why that’d be the case,” the American said.
Confused about this sudden revelation, the foreigner asked other Singaporeans on Reddit how an “accent is related to class?”
SG Redditors: ‘Accent is not the issue’
One SG Redditor stated that the “standard of [spoken] English and written English” of the locals was the issue, not the accent.
“Reading through most official documents in Singapore is sometimes physically painful because the grammar is completely off and the documents are normally rife with spelling errors etc.
I honestly think that a lot of it would go away if Singapore just said, “hey, gents, Singlish is a different language and should be treated separately and recognised as such.” Which should pave the way for diglossia, which would benefit everyone greatly,” the Redditor wrote.
Another Redditor also added, “The framing of Singlish with respect to our identity is crucial. I agree with this point. Treating Singlish as a creole or separate language would go some way to alleviate the problem.
Unfortunately, a combination of white worship and our government’s public disdain of Singlish in the past has led Singlish being looked down upon by some Singaporeans.”
Another SG Redditor said that the Singaporean salesperson’s remark was simply a classic example of the sentiments of “Textbook self-deprecating/grass is greener kind of sinkies.”
One Redditor also talked about how, as he grew older and studied overseas, he learned to value “Singlish.” He said, “It was so convenient, and there’s like a bond created when you meet someone in a different country and you hear them speak English.”
The ‘Accent Bias’
Unfortunately, this ‘accent bias’ phenomenon—wherein an unjustified bias is formed based on the sound of someone’s speech—is rampant not only in Singapore but also in other countries.
Accents have been used to indicate whether someone fits into a particular “group or class,” even more so than race.
Psychologist Professor Kinzler found in a 2009 study that even five-year-olds preferred other-race children with a similar accent over their own-race peers when given the choice.