Time to take a closer look at how English is taught in schools

Students at a kindergarten interacting with teachers.
Students at a kindergarten interacting with teachers.PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Ken Ong has rightly reasoned the need to speak proper English (It may be time for a Speak Proper English campaign, July 2).

Despite the best efforts of the Government to encourage Singaporeans to speak grammatically correct English, it is a fact that Singlish has become increasingly pervasive, used in schools, business meetings, online forums and everywhere in between.

It is time we took a closer look at the way English is taught in schools.

If students have been taught good communication and presentation skills from an early age, it would have clearly mitigated the problem we face today.

As this has not been done, Singlish has wantonly evolved to become the practical, acceptable and communicative English of Singaporeans. It is therefore no surprise that inferior levels of spoken and written English prevail today.

It cannot be denied that the onslaught of social media, smartphones and other technological toys has virtually crippled the way we relate to one another verbally.

We have become self-absorbed to such an extent that we have lost the ability to talk and communicate with one another in good standard English.

Although proponents of Singlish argue that its use cuts across racial differences and represents our ethnic diversity, national identity and cultural linguistic peculiarities, it is a fact that it causes problems when Singaporeans need to communicate in the global language of commerce, business and technology.

This is because Singlish is characterised by disregard for acceptable grammar, sentence structure and correct usage of words.

We therefore need to establish a proper base of spoken and written English at all levels, though initially it will be difficult to prevent the use of Singlish in informal casual settings.

Such a need cannot be overemphasised in the context of the globalised metropolis we are proud to live in.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2019, with the headline 'Time to take a closer look at how English is taught in schools'. Subscribe