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think 33

January 23, 2011 thesundaytimes ●


Each week, we publish an extract
from a book that is topical or of
general interest. themselves do not
The $1,000 Genome: The think dialects are
Revolution In DNA
Sequencing And The New Era important to their
Of Personalized Medicine
Kevin Davies lives.”
Free Press (2010) MR PERNG PECK SENG, 59,
vice-president of the Hokkien Huay
Kuan, quoted in a recent article
about how the use of dialects has
been steadily declining

Tey Khek Ban, 39

“It is a change in the
environment as most
youngsters don’t use
dialect these days.
Nowadays, most of
them are educated in
English and use that the
most. It is hard to
preserve dialect unless
Do you know what illnesses we communicate with
you are predisposed to? Or do the elderly.”
you have gene variants linked
to heart disease or baldness?
Well, you can now order your Joanna Koh, 20
own personal genome sequence ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE Freelance make-up
(the mapping of your DNA) at a
mere cost of US$1,000 “Most jobs these days
(S$1,300). Kevin Davies, require only English

Tigers or not, the best

editor-in-chief of Bio-IT World, and Chinese, and
explores what it would mean to many of us come from
the future and the many issues English-speaking
raised by the tsunami of families. Also, speaking
personal genetic information. in dialect sounds
crude to me, and

parents are wise

Excerpt unless it is spoken in
Just as medicine has rid the the family with the
world of polio and smallpox older generation, it
and effectively prevented will be hard to
genetic diseases such as preserve a dialect.”
thalassemias in parts of the
Mediterranean world, some
believe the US$1,000 genome Noor Jehan, 35
Some children benefit form the task well – and thus enjoy where he studied engineering. He gaporean families would nurture Engineer
will crush or even eradicate it. matured faster than I did and knew their children as intensely. If my
most kinds of genetic disease.
However, one geneticist
from being pushed Chinese students today are no how to put academic qualifications friend’s son does better than the “Words in different
warned, “Like a candle in the hard, while others longer subjected to moxie. As it is, in proper perspective. children of native Singaporeans, he
Till I was about 30 years old, I deserves to do so. No Singaporean
dialects may have
they have difficulties memorising different meanings, so it
wind, their legend will probably need more nurturing chengyu (aphorisms), which are was fiercely competitive in many has a right to complain when such can get confusing and
continue long after they are
much shorter and simpler than the things. Hsien Yang, while also com- individuals do better in university hard to express oneself.
burned out.”
The US$1,000 genome poems and essays I had to memo- petitive, had a calmer tempera- or get ahead of them in their ca- To preserve dialects,
Lee Wei Ling ment that helped him respond bet- reers. perhaps we could
means that genome sequencing rise. I am glad I was put through a
is destined for the doctor’s tougher system. ter to the challenges of life, while I I have a special interest in how compile dialect

office as more and more he excerpt from Yale law But my home environment was was full of angst. children learn. As a neurologist, I of- dictionaries for our
patients have their DNA professor Amy Chua’s Bat- not tough. My mother was a wise Then, I picked up Buddhist phi- ten see patients who are not doing grandchildren to learn
sequenced as part of their tle Hymn Of The Tiger woman but most untiger-like. She losophy when I found a book on well academically. Some have learn- from.”
routine medical care. Mother – first published understood me. I was, and still am, the teachings of Buddha in the ing disabilities, like dyslexia or at-
It is easy to assume that in The Wall Street Journal a determined and intense person. drawer of a Japanese hotel room. tention deficit hyperactivity disor-
patients, particularly in the and reprinted in The Straits Times My mother knew I had made up Most religious books turn me off der. Others simply have a low IQ. Sujith Subramaniam, 28
United States, accustomed, last week – has created quite a sensa- my mind to do well academically. I because of their It is important to Technical analyst
even entitled, to state-of-the-art tion. was so intent on succeeding that I proselytising. But analyse why a child
this merely wrote Choosing methods is not thriving aca- “English is a widely
medicine, will embrace the Though I do not agree with would study for a test long before it
about Buddha’s demically. Some can used language as
US$1,000 genome. some of her ideas, there are a few was on the horizon; and on the day It is worth
teachings and how do better by study- compared to dialects.
But how much information gems in her piece that I find inter- of the exam or test, I would wake
do patients really want to esting. up at 5am to go through my work we should live our remembering that, ing harder. These If we are heading
lives. Denying that occasionally, a Tiger are the children overseas to work or
know? How will clinicians react I studied at a Chinese school for one last time.
he was a god, and who would benefit study, what is the
when patients insist on their 13 years, including kindergarten. As a result, my parents did not Mother can give
merely claiming to from having a Tiger point of having
genome data, with or without When I was in secondary school, I find it necessary to pressure or urge
insurance? One school of had to memorise – and later, repro- me to get better academic results. be a teacher, the birth to a kitten Mother who makes dialects? Preserving
thought suggests that a truth of his teach- rather than a tiger them repeat lessons dialects can be done
duce in writing – classical Chinese Instead, they encouraged me to in the family, but we
complete genome simply ings seemed imme- over and over again
represents too much
essays and poems. This exercise was take up hobbies and not study so
diately evident to
cub. Then, the till they have mas-
don’t normally use it
termed moxie in Mandarin. hard. Indeed, concerned that I outside of home.”
information for practical use in Each Chinese character written would stress myself out, they urged me. I am still in- Tiger Mother tered them – as
a clinical setting: there are too wrongly was penalised by a deduc- tense but perhaps obviously cannot Chua did in forcing
many ambiguities and too me to relax. They would not have
calmer as a result. her daughter to mas-
My brothers and should not use
tion of five marks. Those were the worried if I did not excel. After all, I Pooja Isabelle, 13
much potential bad news for ter a piano piece.
days when we had to use the old, was a girl. Student
patients to deal with.
complex form of characters, so the and I did not need teaching methods Other children may
But many patients will My older brother Hsien Loong a Tiger Mother. Ma- better suited for a benefit from more
chance of committing an error was did exceptionally well in school. “Dialects are hard to
undoubtedly demand the ma knew that, so nurturing and indi- speak and they are
maximal information about higher than if we had used simpli- He had a calmer temperament than she did not treat us tiger cub. vidualised educa- slowly becoming dead
their disease risks, the safest fied Chinese characters. I did and did not need any advice as her tiger cubs. tion plans. languages, as many
and most effective drugs for Still, I never received less than to “take it easy”. Good academic re- It is worth re- don’t bother to pick
their genotype, and other 80 marks, and often I would get full My younger brother Hsien Yang sults were desirable, but they were membering that, occasionally, a Ti- them up. If schools
health-positive lifestyle marks. Little wonder, then, that I was playful and did not study too ger Mother can give birth to a kit-
not the be all and end all of life. made dialects a subject,
changes. Physicians will have to enjoyed memorising the poems hard. He knew how much effort he
and essays. Moxie helped to hone But there are many Tiger Moth- ten rather than a tiger cub. Then, and brought in
communicate such information had to put in to do well enough
to their patients in ways that my concentration. ers in Singapore. One of my the Tiger Mother obviously cannot teachers to teach them,
that my parents would not be disap-
are meaningful and My experience confirms Chua’s pointed with him. He also spent a friends, a Chinese immigrant who and should not use teaching meth- it could help preserve
ods better suited for a tiger cub. the culture.”
understandable, as well as keep theory that whatever one does is good deal of time pursuing ex- is now a Singapore citizen, pins all Whether or not they are tigers,
their patients up-to-date as new never fun until one is good at it. To tra-curricular activities – canoeing, her hopes for the future on her on- the best mothers – and fathers –
disease links emerge. become good at anything, one has rowing, playing squash, swim- ly child. She is determined that he are, above all, wise. There is no one
will rise high in society. Every approach to child-rearing that fits Melvyn Tay, 23
to work at it. Most children will re- ming, running and so on. Student
Extracted by Peter Chan from sist working at something that they I rather envied Yang. He did not e v e n i n g , s h e t u t o r s t h e all children.
the National Library Board. are not particularly good at. With- take his academic work too serious- five-year-old for 90 minutes, after The writer is the director of the “The decline is due
The book is available at NLB’s out external pressure, usually exert- ly. He was not disappointed when which her husband tutors the boy National Neuroscience Institute. to a lack of usage in
public libraries. Call No: ed by parents, they would never get he obtained a first but not a starred for another 30 minutes. Send your comments to today’s context. We
English 616.042 DAV-(HEA) to the stage where they can per- first at Cambridge University, I do not think many native Sin- don’t use it in school
or at work. I don’t
think it has any
relevance to
I almost missed my deadline for [ THE EX-PAT FILES ] so they could then expound on government policy. I
this column since I just got back why the People’s Republic of China don’t see it being
from holiday. No, I didn’t “go should become an American de- used elsewhere
home”, that is, back to Australia for
Christmas as many people had as-
sumed; rather I took off for Tokyo
for shopping and the cold weather.
I’m a Third Culture Kid mocracy.
But if you have a genuine con-
nection to a place, a people and a
culture, I don’t see why you can’t
except among family
members. People should be
educated in dialects because if
we don’t know how to speak
On arriving at Changi – the new celebrate its strong points and them, we won’t use them.”
According to that paragon of in- No one wears shoes at home, we
Terminal 3 is a breeze to use by the adopt them as your own, integrat-
formation, Wikipedia, a “third cul- eat rice at every meal, my mother
way, and being the holder of a ing them into your own way of liv-
ture kid (TCK/3CK) or trans-culture strongly believes in fengshui, tradi- Sin Melia, 13
trusty “green card”, I didn’t even ing.
kid is someone who, as a child, has tional Chinese medicine and acu- Student
have to fill out an arrival form – I This is actually the core trait of
spent a significant period of time in puncture, and we have a lovely
was relieved to finally be home. the TCK. According to the research “It will be an advantage
one or more culture(s) other than shrine to my deceased grandpar-
Yes, strange as it may sound to of sociologist Ruth Hill Useem, with old folks if we were
his or her own, thus integrating ele- ents in an appropriate place in the
some, I do consider Singapore my who reportedly coined the phrase, to communicate with
ments of those cultures and their living room.
actual home. “TCKs integrate aspects of their them. To preserve
I may have been here for only own birth culture, into a third cul- Sure, there are lots of multi-cul-
birth culture (the first culture) and dialects, we should be
two years and I may not be a PR ture”. tural families living in Australia
the new culture (the second cul- taught to speak them
(permanent resident), but my mail- It goes on to say that TCKs also these days – despite the racism of from young.”
Pauline Hanson and the Cronulla ture), creating a unique ‘third cul-
ing address is here, my worldly tend to have stronger connections ture’,” which is where the term
goods are here, my friends are here, Riots, the population does consist
with other TCKs, regardless of na- comes from.
my work is here and I can find my of people from many different cul-
tionality, than they do with extend- Hmmm … actually the descrip- HOW TO REACH US
way around most places blind-fold- tures – but in our case, there’s no ge-
ed family members or friends from tion of a TCK sounds awfully simi-
ed. To me, that means “I’m home”. Niki Bruce netic reason for us to be the way we AFTER OFFICE HOURS .............6319-6319
their passport country, that they lar to that of a Singaporean. In fact,
Sure, it may seem like I’ve given are.
are often multilingual and “highly modern Singaporean culture could Newsdesk .....6319-5397 fax: 6732-0131
my allegiance willy-nilly and with- Rather, our adoption of Asian at-
accepting of other cultures”. Singapore was so I’d never have to be described as the quintessential Foreign desk ..6319-5745 fax: 6319-8274
out much thought, but in fact this tributes has been made through per-
Take me, for example. I have an do another story on Rugby League, Third Culture, the mix of a birth East Asia unit .6319-2763 fax: 6319-8274
adopting of a new home as quickly sonal choice and a genuine feeling
Australian passport but find it hard swimming as entertainment or the culture with a new culture, creating Forum desk ...6319-5454 fax: 6319-8289
as possible is something of a “Third of belonging. We choose to be
to identify with typically Austral- importance of beer as a national a third culture. Money desk ...6319-5030 fax: 6319-8262
Culture Kid” trait. more Asian than other Australian
ian cultural practices; I don’t gener- icon. Heresy for all Aussie journos! families because we like and identi- No wonder I feel so at home Sports ............6319-6319 fax: 6319-8287
What’s a “Third Culture Kid”?
ally get on with other Australians; Even my family, which looks ter- fy with certain cultural practices. here! Life/LifeStyle 6319-5416 fax: 6319-8276
Well, it’s the new definition for a Picture desk ...6319-5328 fax: 6319-8271
large part of our mobile global pop- and I speak about three languages – ribly Australian from the outside – I’m the first to abhor the whole- The writer, an Australian, is the
that’s not counting the languages I Art desk ........6319-5400 fax: 6319-8272
ulation, of which I’m one. Basical- right down to our Caucasian fea- sale adoption of a culture without online editor of ST Interactive 6319-5095 fax: 6319-8289
ly, we hold a passport for one coun- can swear, order beer or buy ciga- tures, Irish ancestry and my father’s consideration, like the American and and has
try, but we’ve been brought up in rettes in. love of cricket – are in fact rather students I came across in Beijing lived in Singapore for two FOR SPORTS RESULTS .......1900-9120012
one, or many, others. One of the reasons I moved to more Asian than Australian. who wanted to “live like the locals” years. E-mail letters

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