It may be time for a Speak Proper English campaign

Children at a reading corner of a library.
Children at a reading corner of a library.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Singapore is one of the wealthiest sovereign countries in the world. We have a diversity of races, religions, languages and cultures. We are respected by the majority of the world, if not all.

In Singapore, English is the chosen language of communication for commerce, international relations and social media.

Most Singaporeans have been educated in English, either as the primary language or as a second language.

However, when it comes to having the English language spoken by an average Singaporean, the nightmare starts.

Yes, many have put our Singlish on a pedestal and called it the language of Singapore.

But does rapid-fire Singlish fit into the future?

I believe the root of the problem lies in a child's emulation of English diction used by his peers, parents and teachers.

This creates a cycle which I cannot see being broken unless some kind of miracle occurs.

Sit in any of our trains or buses, or simply walk down the street, and listen to our younger, and some not so young, Singaporeans talk to each other.

The words spoken may be English-based but the true communication effect of these exchanges is completely lost, at least to me, a Singaporean, and almost all foreigners.

Is it possible for these Singaporeans to speak more slowly and enunciate their spoken words more clearly?

Rather than allow every syllable to trip over the next just to get a sentence out as quickly as possible?

And those are only the issues of speed-talking and bad grammar. Have I mentioned proper pronunciation? Can anybody offer a solution or care to comment?

Our late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew started a "Speak Mandarin" campaign many years ago, which arguably worked.

How about a "Speak Proper English" campaign? Not that we are so enamoured of the English language but, let's face it, that is just how the world communicates.

Master the language and speak it properly.

Ken Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2019, with the headline 'It may be time for a Speak Proper English campaign'. Print Edition | Subscribe