Overheard At Al-Azhar Poem Analysis

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“Languages do not exclude each other, but rather intersect with each other in many different ways.” (Mikhal Bakhtin, 291). Comparing the sonnets “Overheard at Al-Azhar” and “Conversaytion” by Joshua Ip, with the film 881 by Royston Tan, the reader and viewer are made aware of the shift in the use of language with relation to Singapore’s changing position, globally, culturally and socially. The changing landscape and corresponding changes in language choice suggest the importance of language as a part of cultural convention. Language as a part of culture then, arguably, explores the concept of a national identity, and of belonging.
In Rubdy and McKay’s article, they argue that “language ideologies operate in powerful ways as sites of power and
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In the article, she explains how putting down Singlish as part of the national identity has become a part of national identity itself, resulting from a post-colonial mindset struggling with a means of unifying different cultures and languages. Ip explores this struggle in the third stanza of “Overheard at Al-Azhar”, suggesting that with the rise of China, “everybody also mother tongue / but still got years before they can make it” (39). It is evident that ‘mother tongue’ is a result of governmental intervention, yet something that the speakers are proud to be a part of, but again, as earlier mentioned, put forward in Singlish. A national identity, then, is arguably most noticeable in terms of language. Without a language of their own, locals borrow from one another’s languages and cultures to create a unification, one that is condoned because of it being viewed as uncultured, yet is also itself a significant aspect of culture. Ip also explores this in another sonnet, “Conversaytion” where there is repetition and wordplay on the word “say” (43). At first glance, the poem does not seem to make sense. Yet, like the conversations in 881 and the poem mentioned earlier, an…show more content…
an appreciation among the [foreigners] of the multilingual ethos that Singapore provides.” A study in Rubdy and McKay’s article suggests. The Durian Sisters in the film 881, rivals to the main duo the Papaya Sisters, are arguably an example of this. The Getai stage is an example of culture that the Durian Sisters are determined to pursue. This results in them attempting to mix Mandarin with English in order to be better understood by the local crowd and lip-syncing to mask their accents during a performance. Like the “ang moh” (Ip, 39) in Ip’s poem, complete with the “accent” it would seem that the outsiders are also drawn to a unified culture and what it encompasses. The Durian Sisters’ antics not only provide comic relief to the rather tragic storyline, but also indicate how culture and identity are not merely for the Singaporean trying to identify as part of the nation, but also aspects studied outside of the nation as the world becomes increasingly
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