Forum: English still a second language for many here

Pupils at Anchor Green Primary School in Sengkang turned up for their classes dressed in their ethnic costumes to mark Racial Harmony Day on July 21, 2015.
Pupils at Anchor Green Primary School in Sengkang turned up for their classes dressed in their ethnic costumes to mark Racial Harmony Day on July 21, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

Retired university professor Margaret Chan made what I thought was a very curious observation - that English has now become Singapore's mother tongue alongside the ethnic dialects. (English, mother tongue and the S'pore identity, Jan 2).

A mother tongue can be understood as a language that one is proficient in and comfortable with using.

I have been away from Singapore for 29 years and my visits back here in recent years have convinced me that Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, are not comfortable with the English language.

Not only is the language being spoken increasingly badly, but people do not seem to understand proper English.

English is, at best, Singapore's second language, as it has always been, and a unifying tool in the proverbial Tower of Babel.

But irrespective of the language people here speak, another observation is that Singapore has become a gentler and more caring society.

Jane Chew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'English still a second language for many here'. Print Edition | Subscribe