Those fluent in English can set an example for others

The role of the Speak Good English Movement is to encourage Singaporeans to use grammatically correct English. We believe that proper pronunciation is also an important part of speaking English well ("Draw line between mistakes and language evolution" by Madam Ng Poh Leng, and "Balance correct pronunciation and being understood" by Miss Adelene Soh Li Theng; both published on Feb 9).

We agree that Singlish is a cultural marker for many Singaporeans and that it has a syntax and vocabulary of its own, using words and structures from English, Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects.

It is, therefore, not surprising that linguists have long found Singlish interesting to study.

However, even they would agree that there is a time and place for Singlish, and that it is probably inappropriate to use Singlish syntax in school work, for instance.

The inclusion of Singlish words in the Oxford English Dictionary reflects the desire of its editors to record the sheer diversity and versatility of the language as used by its speakers around the world.

This does not imply that Singlish words may be used in any situation.

A distinction must also be made between ungrammatical English and Singlish.

We agree that using Singlish syntax, thinking that it is grammatical English, is not something to be proud of.

While the Speak Good English Movement does not seek to eradicate Singlish, we encourage those who speak ungrammatical English to learn and adopt the grammar rules of standard English.

We believe that those who speak grammatical English with proper pronunciation should set an example to those who do not realise that they are speaking ungrammatical English or mispronouncing words.

Singapore is admired around the world for many things, but our use of English is one area where we can strive to improve - and this can happen only when we make a habit of speaking more carefully and clearly, and encouraging others to do the same.

Goh Eck Kheng


Speak Good English Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Those fluent in English can set an example for others'. Print Edition | Subscribe