I have a soft spot for our dialect-speaking seniors… They have so many life experiences and stories to tell. But they’re often unheard, partly because of the language barrier.
That led me to co-found LearnDialect.sg with my husband in 2018. We conduct dialect-speaking workshops for medical students, healthcare professionals, social workers and volunteers, to help them communicate with the elderly. Many healthcare professionals and volunteers can’t speak dialect, and the older folks are reluctant to open up or seek help.
In January, we stopped all visits to the nursing home where I’m a volunteer, when they told us that all meetings would be suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. I was worried. How would the old folks understand the situation if we couldn’t explain it to them in person?
So my husband and I worked over four days on a set of Covid-19 videos in Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. The two-minute videos, each with English and Mandarin subtitles, explain the coronavirus infection, symptoms, and basic precautions to take, such as covering one’s mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing. The videos were launched on the Learn Dialect Youtube channel in February. They can be played to the elderly by healthcare workers or anyone who doesn’t speak dialect. Within a few days, it saw over 100,000 views!
A foreign domestic helper told us after she showed the video to the 94-year-old lady whom she was looking after, she was no longer upset when told to stay home during the Circuit Breaker. Many people are helping to spread the message, including the nursing homes circulating it to their nurses. The People’s Association even played our videos on loop on a billboard at Heartbeat@Bedok lifestyle hub. This was a big step in reaching out to more dialect-speaking seniors who don’t have social media, as Bedok has the largest population of seniors in Singapore.
The most rewarding part is the appreciation we got from the seniors. They reminisce about the old days, especially how much they miss the radio shows and news in dialect!
This article was first published in Her World’s August issue. Grab a copy today!