Important to speak English at public service offices

I hope the authorities will reiterate the importance of the consistent use of English as our official working language at government agencies and public service offices.

Users of public services, such as hospitals and statutory boards, come from varied backgrounds.

Many can communicate with front-line staff only in English.

Of late, I have noticed that many of these staff, while on duty, tend to interact among themselves in their own languages.

While it is understandable that they do so when they are off duty or in the privacy of resting areas for camaraderie, it is inappropriate and, at times, even rude when they do so while serving visitors.

I have also noticed that, often, these interactions include private banter totally irrelevant to the business at hand.

These instances make them appear to be slacking off rather than working.

English, as Singapore's official working language, serves as an important bridge for our multi-ethnic population.

Any failure to speak in English... will undermine our high standards of public service that many Singaporeans have become proud of.

English, as Singapore's official working language, serves as an important bridge for our multi-ethnic population.

Any failure to speak in English at such agencies must not be allowed to take root or it will undermine our high standards of public service that many Singaporeans have become proud of.

Bernard C G Law

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Important to speak English at public service offices'. Print Edition | Subscribe