A plethora of local productions are being churned out this lunar new year, such as It’s a Great Great World and Homecoming. Companies are jumping on the bandwagon to produce local movies to exploit the festive period. Just last week, I noticed a surge in the number of families watching movies on the second day of the Chinese New Year. These family friendly productions successfully cater to the needs of people wanting to spend some time with their loved ones.

Homecoming 2011

It's a Great Great World 2011


I’m not sure how many people in our community support local films, but I admit that I’m not a local movie fan. The latest local production  I caught was “Money No Enough 2” way back in 2008. However, after watching the trailer for “Homecoming“, I felt the urge to catch it because of  a sense of renewed hope for the local movie industry. Based on the trailer and synopsis alone, I was able to draw out concepts covered in class this week. Under the umbrella term of Verbal Communication, I think it is only appropriate to focus on a number of concepts for deeper analysis. These concepts are namely the use and impact of language and the language-based barriers to communication.  

After a couple of female impersonations in the past that propelled him to fame, Jack Neo is back with a new character in the form of an immaculate lady by the name of Karen Neo in “Homecoming“. Names help to define the identity of the people we attach them to. Holding household names like Liang Po Po (1993) and Liang Si Mei (1995) gives Neo a distinct identity and differentiates one character from another. Despite being the same person, impersonations with different names allow the audience to recognize the characters that Neo is portraying.

See trailer below:

In the trailer, we see Mark Lee as an overbearing chef with an accent. Based on preconceived generalizations and stereotypes, it is fairly simple for the audience to conclude that Mark Lee hails from Hong Kong in the movie. His pronunciation and infusion of the Cantonese dialect in his speech led the audience to classify him as a Hong Konger. Similarly, we understand that Neo is not bred in Singapore due to his acccent. Singaporeans are easily identifiable because of our Singlish and occasional smatter of Hokkien. These generalizations brought about by society causes us to inevitably organize people into different categories based on the way they speak .

In verbal communication, there would be unavoidable challenges that pose as barriers to impede our communication with one another. We see many of such language-based barriers in the Homecoming trailer. A word that stood out while I was watching the trailer was the word “Fantabulous” used by Mark Lee in 1:22. As a slang, this word may not be familiar to many, hence resulting in a possibility of misunderstandings due to the lack of understanding. Slang is often a barrier to verbal communication because people who have never accountered the word will not understand what it means.

From the analysis above, we come to an understanding that language is a powerful tool that defines and helps us to organize the information regarding the things around us. In reel life, the roles that each character play affects the way they communicate. But in real life, verbal communication requires skill and tactics for it to be effective.

Food for thought:

– Are there instances in your life where you are lost in translation because people use language and terms which you dont understand?

Do give your comments and share with us your story (:


February 13, 2011. Uncategorized.


  1. Shar replied:

    For me, the times when I feel most uncomfortable with language is when I communicate with the elderly, most of whom only speak dialect. Because of family upbringing, I don’t know any form of dialect and this poses as a barrier to communication.

  2. calean replied:

    i agree language is a powerful tool.
    Using a universal language, like english, ensures that the same message can be conveyed to people of different race, culture. However, i also think that such slangs, dialects and diversity in languages does play an important role in defining our culture and identity..barriers are unavoidable but it is acceptable as long as prejudice doesnt come into play.

    • Valerie replied:

      Hi Calean(:
      While I agree that language is important in defining our culture and identity, there may be limitations in demonstrating one’s culture and identity if people don’t understand what that particular slang or dialect represents. So while language promotes identity, I believe that there are certain limitations in doing so.

  3. Lina replied:

    I think there will always be countless opportunities for us to encounter situations in which we are “lost in translation”. For example, a simple situation like ordering food overseas would be alot tougher if you do not know the language being used by the natives. I guess that could be considered a “language-based barrier to communication”.

  4. Ben Tay replied:

    It happens on many occasions in Singapore. Get a person from the mainland and one might find it difficult to decipher his/her speech. Similarly, converse with a German and you might not understand the meaning of the conversation behind the strong accent.
    Language is a powerful tool; however there are alternate methods of communication (such as symbols, pictures, and signs.
    Language is rich as it wraps one’s history and pride.

  5. Li Yin Low replied:

    Hello! All of you guys have agreed that language is a powerful tool and that it shapes culture and identity. Written language is of paramount importance in documenting histories of different cultures and civilizations. Food for thought: in a multi-racial, multi-language society like Singapore, how is it that we are able to have a uniquely Singaporean culture in view of the above-mentioned “language-based barriers to communication”? I would say shared experiences and gradual adaptation of other cultures. What about you? (:

  6. Valerie replied:

    Hi there!(: I would say that what makes Singapore’s culture unique is the mere fact that we are a harmonious and multiracial society. With many different cultures residing in one single country, isn’t that a unique aspect of Singapore per se? Language, in this case, only serves as barriers to communication when you try to converse with someone who doesn’t speak our language, for example. But such barriers do not erode our uniqueness in any way! Like you said, gradual adaptation of other cultures contribute to our unique culture. So I believe that being a multiracial society living harmoniously with one another is an important contributing factor to Singapore’s unique culture.

  7. Weixuan replied:

    Hi val!

    you mentioned in this post that the ‘slang’ used in the movie acts as a barrier to verbal communication and prevents us from understanding those who used slang in their speech. in reference to this movie, mark lee used the word ‘fantabulous’ which might be completely unfamiliar to an overseas audience. on the other hand, i think that the local audience would be able to catch the meaning of this slang perfectly. so ultimately, the understanding really depends on the audience.

    • Valerie replied:

      Hello! I think you pointed out an important fact that I could have possibly overlooked. It’s true that the understanding of particular slang is dependent on the receiver, in this case, the audience of the film. Language is subjective to the communicator and the receiver of the message. However, it is too sweeping a statement to conclude that because the audience of this movie is local, they would be able to understand fully what certain slang means. We cannot forget that Singapore is a multiracial society comprising of many different races. People from a differenct race and culture interpret words differently. Hence, we cannot assume that all who watch this movie are able to grasp the message of the movie easily.

  8. Jennifer replied:

    I have friends who sometimes use slang such as “imba” and “GG” – terms that I have never heard before in my life. This resulted in my inability to understand what they are saying sometimes when I first got to know this group of friends. But I have since learnt to adapt to their use of language and even started using such slang myself.

  9. papaya replied:

    Yes i think language barriers are quite irritating in a sense but that doesn’t happen often with my friends in Singapore because English has always been the common language. It happens only when I need to interact with foreign people in Singapore such as people from China, where i will try to speak Chinese to them. However, due to my lack of proficiency in the Chinese language, there is often communication breakdown.

  10. Yuanxin replied:

    In spite of the language-based barriers to communication, I definitely think that Singapore’s culture is unique because of the simple fact that we are able to somehow transcend these barriers and live harmoniously with each other. Whenever I see racial divide and disharmony in other parts of the world, I feel blessed to be in Singapore, free from such racial tensions.

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