Friday, 2 February 2018

Watch What Thou Sayest

We sometimes assume that certain folks do not understand what we say, especially when we use a foreign language in their presence. For example, few would expect an Englishman these days, who has been residing in London for most of his life, to be able to speak Bahasa Malaysia or Malay language. But sometimes, what we assume may not necessarily be true, and we may end up embarrassed or red-faced.

One day, two students from Malaysia, studying at a University in London, were riding on a bus from their apartment to a supermarket to purchase some supplies. When the bus arrived at a certain stop, an Englishman boarded the bus. The two Malaysians were seated near the centre of the bus, and as the Englishman walked past them to take a seat at the back of the bus, one student remarked to the other: “tengok itu babi lalu?” (Translated as “look at that pig passing by” and it was a derogatory statement towards the Englishman). The Englishman did not say anything as he walked past, took a seat near the back of the bus and sat down, and the bus moved on.

At a certain location, the Englishman got up and rang the bell, as he wanted to alight from the bus. To the utter shock, surprise and embarrassment of the two Malaysians, the Englishman said to them as he passed by: “tolong ke tepi, babi nak lalu” (Translated as "please move aside, the pig wants to go past). Then he smirked and got off the bus.

What can we learn from this incident? Never assume that others do not understand what we say, especially when we use a foreign language in their presence. After all, it seems not only rude, and lacking of manners, etiquette and decorum; we may find ourselves embarrassed and eating humble pie, when we discover that the person actually understood what we were saying. This is also the case in church, when we are in the presence of faithful from other ethnic groups, especially during certain activities or functions. May we be mindful and respectful of what we say in the presence of others, and show good example to all.

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