Comment: Is it acceptable to speak a language other than English at work?
SINGAPORE: the online retailer, Shopee came under fire recently, when allegations of discrimination and a toxic work culture surfaced on social media. One of the complaints was that Chinese was spoken in meetings or used in internal documents, according to a Glassdoor study.
Since 1966, Singapore’s bilingual policy has required all students in national schools to learn English as a first language in addition to an official mother tongue as a second language.
Bilingual politics have succeeded in transforming Singapore into an economic powerhouse and this has shaped how dominant the language has become, even at home. Census information shows that English was the most spoken language at home for almost half of Singapore residents.
Another study, published in 2020 by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on race, religion and language, showed that up to 71% of respondents from all ethnic groups in 2018 reported that interactions interethnic in public space should be in English.
It is âobviousâ for English to be the preferred language in the workplace and yet every now and then complaints arise.
WHEN IS THIS A PROBLEM?
To illustrate when using non-English in the workplace can be problematic, we can use two common scenarios.
The first looks like this: There is a team of four engineers with three foreigners of the same nationality. They think or chat in the office in their own language and only speak English when giving the necessary information to their local teammate.
The second scenario occurs when a department meeting has not yet started and a group of managers are animatedly speaking in a language other than English. And because the majority are from the same ethnic group, participants sometimes use a word here or there during the meeting without translation.