Monday, 6 February 2012

Ang Moh Extraordinaire

Tyler Creasman is an American boy who, like me, has lived most of his life in Singapore, but unlike me, has picked up Singlish (Singaporean English) to a greater extent and speaks it with such fluency that he has gained the (well-deserved) attention of local media. Language and language acquisition has always been fascinating to me, and as both Swedish and English are failing me at moment, I decided upon this interview with my former school mate to fondly remember the fact that others still do possess the ability to speak and make themselves understood, whatever the circumstance. 

You've become something of a local celebrity. Where have you been featured and how did this happen?
Tyler and Ian Wright in Chinatown

Well... I guess it all goes back to a little skit I did at a school event in 7th grade where I showed off my local flair to my other international friends. Somebody filmed it and my mom put it up online. It became popular and somebody shared it with Mr. Brown, a local podcaster (who I was imitating in the skit as Sgt ‘Light Brown’), and he featured me on his show. A couple years later somebody dug it up again, and I was invited to the Shan and Rozz Show. That went off. Before I knew it I was getting asked to do other stuff. A local comedy club had me on for a couple of sets. One of the coolest things was when I got a call from a Discovery Travel channel agent, and got to meet Ian Wright from Globetrekkers when he was in town.

And where did you acquire your Singlish speaking abilities?

After six years of local school, it’s a miracle I can still speak American English. Honestly, if you immerse yourself in something for so long, it’ll rub off on you. I didn’t even realize it, but my parents said when I was in grade school I would switch accents talking to them or talking to my local friends. 

I hear that 11% of the readers of Stomp! were "Enraged" by your Singlish abilities. What do you have to say to that?

Haters gonna hate. People get angry on the internet; there are some ‘enraged’ comments on the videos too. In general Singaporeans think it’s pretty shiok though, so the 11% doesn’t really bother me. 
Tyler featured in the New Paper
It seems to be a touchy subject. Why do you think some people are upset by you learning the creole of Singapore?

I don’t think most critics realize how long I’ve actually been in Singapore. If some foreigner came into my country, had a knack for accents, and imitated me, I might be mad too. But I’ve spent the majority of my life on the island (in local neighborhoods and mostly local schools), so I think that gives me just as much credibility as the next Singaporean. 

When walking around Singapore, has anyone ever pointed you out as "Hey look! It's the ang moh who speaks Singlish?"

Hah! Nope. It has happened in private a few times, when I’ve been introduced to people and they say, “I feel like I know you from somewhere.” My personal favorite was when people asked my mom if she had seen the videos about the white kid who spoke Singlish. 

If you were ever asked by…oh, let's say, Mediacorp, would you consider taking up a role in a local sitcom and achieving stardom equal to that of Gurmit Singh?

Well, I wouldn’t ever hope to be as big an icon as the great Phua Chu Kang. But yeah, that’d be a blast to be on TV for Singlish or Mandarin. In 2010 I was offered a role on the Hossan Leong show actually. It would’ve paid pretty well for doing a five minute section in the Esplanade. However, it was during my senior football season and clashed with game times, so I had to turn it down. Other side story, my parents were extras in the local movie “I Do I Do”, so I met Jack Neo on the set. Didn’t get a business card though...

What do you think you'll be doing in the future?

Working for Mediacorp, obviously... Hah! I'm busy with getting through college right now, then we'll see. 

Any advice to future Singlish speakers? Or to ang mohs recently arrived on Singapore soil?

Learn some Chinese and Malay, eat the weirder local dishes to say you tried them (everyone has to do durian at least once).  Get out there and explore the island; immerse yourself in the culture and be Singaporean, not just an Ang Moh. Who knows, it may give you a weird ability that can land you an interview on a blog someday.

There you have it, folks. A jaunty look at a soon-to-be well-known and well-loved Singaporean actor. You can watch more of his Indy-esque explorations into the cultural gaps between language and local colour here.

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