I was reading our < http://www.goodenglish.org.sg/SGEM/background/pm.htm > PM Lee’s speech delivered at the launch of the 5th Speak Good English Movement, and I too have this story to add.
Are you here to play or to sing?
I speak only simple English, yet few understood. Especially those from the West or those who speak only Good English..
Many years ago, I met this man, a Caucasian, a familiar face, at a hawker centre in Queen Street. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Few knew him as Henry John Deutschendorf Jnr.
It was about 1 am, and he approached me for direction, “Could you please tell me where’s Gay Land”
“No, we have a Gay World, but no Gay Land”
He shoved me a piece of paper torn from the corner of the newspaper and in it written “Geylang”;
“That’s “Gay-lung” a red light district. Why would you want to go there? That’s no good for your reputation.”
“Dont get me wrong, I come to Bugis to see the half man, half woman, and they told me Bugis has been demolished. But I could still see them at Gayland. ”
I didn’t feel like talking about Geylang with this gentleman, so I asked
“Are you here to play or to sing.”
“You want me to play and sing here? Right here? ”
“No, I mean are you here on a tour or a performance?”
Or maybe I should have asked, “Business or pleasure?” 25 years later, maybe I know what’s wrong, but I still couldn’t get it right.
” I am on my way to Australia. I am leaving tomorrow.”
That was the first, the only and last time I met and spoke to my idol, John Denver.
We chatted for a while, as if he knew me for years. What a warm and remarkable human being. I didn’t understand much of what he was talking, I doubt he did either.
Speak Good English?
Yes, we better do, to be understood.
But John would always know what I mean if I were to look up and ask him again ” Hey John, are you here to play or to sing?