Dear Uncle

The most significant thing that happened to me today was being addressed as ‘uncle’ by some girl who worked at the local Carrefour. I was in the store shopping for some daily provisions. I paid for my purchases at the cashier counter and the girl who worked there asked me, “uncle, do you want the 5 sen back?”. Uncle??!! I didn’t know that I looked old enough to be called ‘uncle’ except by my niece and nephews. This girl working at the cashier counter was probably some school girl earning some pocket money over the school holidays. However, it still meant that she was at least 16 years old. However, this does not explain why she called me thus.

In other news:

I read an article in TheStar today with regards to the PMR results for science and math in English. It quoted a representative from that which was formerly known as UCLES. The representative said that, “the standard of our Mathematics and Science paper was higher than the United Kingdom’s”. Incidentally this is nothing to be proud of.

In the UK, the scientific community has been complaining about the dire straits of their math and science standards for many years. They know full well that they are falling behind the rest of the world in this respect and are understandably worried about it. A mathematician PhD that I once lived with also made a similar remark before. The scientific community over there tries their best to raise awareness and pressure the government to upgrade standards.

However, it just dawned on me that our recent arguments about teaching math in English is rather moot. Everyone knows that math is a language unto itself. Hence, it should be just as easy (or difficult) to teach math in any language, alien or terrestrial. This article may be of some interest. The case for science is rather different though.

On another note:

I have come to notice that a lot of Korean sentences end with the phrase ‘su-mi-da’ or something to that affect. I should really ask my Korean friend what it means.

PS: My friend says that it is something like ‘desu’ in Japanese. Now, that makes some sense.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

3 thoughts on “Dear Uncle”

  1. I know what it feels like being called uncle. Seems to add years to your youthfullness.

    But on the science and mathematics, i do think that they should stick to english and not move. It is really very bad for the students if we keep on changing our policies time to time.

  2. uncle!

    yes, i agree, stick with english. the only trouble is when i went to visit this ulu school, even the teachers couldn’t really speak english… it will take a few years to fully swing into action after the govt decided to implement it – students that were taught in english take time to become english speaking teachers themselves; quite annoyed that people are talking about switching back so soon, i haven’t even finished uni yet.

  3. Haha… sorry
    It’s the opposite in Hong Kong, these days people might take offence at being called uncle/auntie before they’re nearly 60 – unless the person calling them that is obviously a child. Granddad/grandma is even more out of the question unless you’re about 90, or the person calling you that is really your own grandchild.
    I think when koreans use ‘-hamn-ni-da’ or ‘-soum-ni-da’ at the end of a phrase they are using the polite form. At least, in the less formal form it seems to appear less often. But I’m not sure!

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