Speak Good English Movement – Part 1

This year’s SGEM is targeting younger Singaporeans who prefer Singlish over standard English.

Those who are weak in English naturally prefer Singlish but it’s disappointing that even tertiary-educated people revel in Singlish. Ask the latter group why they persist in speaking Singlish, they’d say it’s out of a sense of camaraderie. Other English-speaking countries have varieties of English as well so what’s wrong with Singlish they’d counter.

But aficionados of Singlish will run into problems when they speak to foreigners. They may find it difficult to make themselves understood.

Many young people in the region are assiduously learning English. For instance, I’ve spoken to Vietnamese and was struck by their ability to speak standard English. Even the Thais have improved tremendously.

With the sub-standard spoken Singapore variety of English, it’ll come as no surprise to visitors that sub-standard written English is equally prevalent.

It’ll take more than an annual Speak Good English Movement to root out bad linguistic habits.

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7 Responses to “Speak Good English Movement – Part 1”

  1. hi there, i completely agree with your opinion. me thinks it’s fine to speak singlish for camaraderie purposes, however, speaking good and proper english is essential as well. it is utterly pathetic as well as an embarrassment to our nation when the people cannot speak proper english, despite it being our number 1 spoken language.

  2. Yes, despite learning English for ten years (for most people), many still have not mastered the basics. However, given this background Singaporeans can master the language if they invest time and effort. When we take the trouble to learn something why not learn the best there is on offer. Why settle for second -rate?

  3. I guess switching is important, learning to use the language both formally (Standard English) and informally (Singlish).

  4. A lack of proficiency in English can lead to misunderstanding. To illustrate, allow me to relate this story.

    Sometimes I would react with some surprise to this friend’s assertions with “Really?”, and he’d retort with, “I’m not telling you a lie. I swear it’s true.”

    I’m expressing my surprise that’s all, and not implying that he’s mendacious.

  5. i’ve had similar experiences as you. saying “really?” to express surprise is very common, unfortunately a lot of people take it the wrong way.

  6. Hi Cheryl. While we say “Really?”, “Is it?” to express surprise is frequently heard. A Singlish equivalent perhaps.

  7. Although I agree that we should try to speak and write good English, I would like to point out that there are foreigners who simply love hearing, learning and speaking Singlish. A few of my Caucasian ex-colleagues love saying “So how?” It’s much faster to say than the complete question, e.g. “What shall we do about… ?”


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