Hold fast to standard English

Ms Sumiko Tan's column (Singlish: Friend Or Foe?, Life, June 5) sends an important message to Singaporeans that we must learn standard English because it is our working language.

Like it or not, Singlish is here to stay. What is important is knowing the difference between standard English and Singlish and to be able to code switch when the occasion demands it.

Unfortunately, many young Singaporeans do not seem to be able to do so. Just read what they say online and you will understand what I mean.

English is our first and official language. As such, one would expect the standard to be much higher than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

But it is not so. In the 1950s and 1960s, many Singapore journalists and teachers did not have university degrees, yet they had a good command of English. Why? The main reason is that today, our schools do not pay enough attention to the teaching of standard English.


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To raise the standard of English, schools need to do much more. For a start, not only the Englishlanguage teachers, but all subject teachers should also help to correct pupils' bad English.

At home, parents who cannot speak proper English should refrain from speaking English to their children. Leave the teaching of proper English to the teachers. By speaking Singlish to their children, these parents are unknowingly doing their children a disservice.

Ungrammatical English learnt at a tender age is very hard to unlearn later in life.

Tan Kim Hock

Ms Sumiko Tan says speaking Singlish is a bond between her and her sister, who lives in the United States, but what does Singlish have to do with being Singaporean?

If some Singaporeans speak only standard English, does it make them non-Singaporeans?

It is not Singlish but our accent and intonation in standard English that brand us as Singaporean.

Is Singlish a friend or foe? It depends on your perspective. But these are the facts. First, Singlish tends to corrupt the standard English learnt in school. Second, standard English is the universal means of communication outside Singapore.

We should not elevate a fractured language that corrupts grammar rules into a national heritage to be revered.

When we were a British colony, our forefathers spoke fractured English to the British. This showed their resilience and survival instinct and must be respected.

Now, times are different and Singlish must never be allowed to become a national heritage. We must progress with standard English on to the world stage.

Dudley Au

I am surprised that we are still talking about Singlish rather than doing something about it.

Singlish is the outright murder of the English language.

Singlish came from Singaporeans too lazy to master English. For the sake of convenience, they threw in a smattering of local terms that hardly made any sense.

Now they feel smug because the Oxford English Dictionary has added some Singlish terms to its latest edition.

Is this our contribution to the world? We should be ashamed. Do we really want our children to adopt a language no one outside Singapore will understand?

Manoraj Rajathurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'Hold fast to standard English'. Print Edition | Subscribe