‘Speak Singlish Proudly, Speak English Properly’

Yk was talking about his new slogan for the language movement, ‘Speak Singlish Proudly, Speak English Properly’. What bothers me greatly is that there is even a need for such a movement. Whose fault is it that it seems there are a large number of Singaporeans who cannot differentiate between Singlish and English, and who cannot switch between them when the occasion calls for it?

Blame the Gahmen? Possibly. After all, we aren’t born with the ability to read and write. That’s what schools are for. But then again, I went through the educational system, and I do not have that problem. I’ve no difficulty switching between a pseudo-American accent, Singlish and just plain proper English like most of what I’m typing right now.

Why is this even so important? Because the very basis of communication, is the need to be understood. Is faking an accent considered being a poser or wannabe? Yes if you’re doing it when you should be speaking Singlish, no if you’re doing it so that you can be understood by the people you’re speaking to.

Maybe it’s because I come from an English-speaking family. Or maybe that is irrelevant. I can assure you, we don’t speak the Queen’s English at home. In fact, I think we speak more Singlish than English, and I only realized that when my stepdad kept telling my mum to watch less Chinese shows, and to not use so much Singlish.

But certainly its not all the Gahmen’s Government’s fault. True enough. I believe that one of the reasons I have a decent foundation in English, was that my parents made an effort in teaching me the basics, even before I entered pre-primary. I was made to read this whole series of 12×4 books called ‘Peter and Jane‘, with each number increasing in difficulty.

I always argue that my basics in English have been pretty much set after primary 6. I attribute a large part of it as a result of being forced to complete a series of exercise from a book called ‘Primary English’ during English classes. Maybe it has in part to do with being thrown out of EM1 Chinese, and made to undergo EM2 English lessons while the Chinese class was in session. I won’t go into too much detail, because then, I would be questioning the educational system in regards to how Chinese is being taught.

Surely someone has an answer to this phenomenon? I personally believe the Singapore Education system is not the best that it could be. I can’t say that I know of another country’s who has a better system. Why can’t the Gahmen pay people to research all the major educational systems, pros and cons, and come up with a better system then the one we have? Or have they already?

Ladies and Gentlemen, if they have, our country is doomed. Maybe you bloggers can help our country out, by listing the pros and cons with our educational system, suggestions on how you think it can be improved, or other systems existing in other countries, which you think might help, if parts of it were implemented in Singapore. Regardless of all my rants, I want my kid to be educated in Singapore. That isn’t anytime in the near future, so maybe it’s time to start thinking about changes. I would happily compile any posts related to this matter on this site, or if Singapore Angle would wanna, it’ll be fine by me.

Let’s get those brain cells cracking.

16 Responses to “‘Speak Singlish Proudly, Speak English Properly’”


    “I would happily compile any posts related to this matter on this site, or if Singapore Angle would wanna, it’ll be fine by me.”

    Ahem…me again? where got so free?! 🙂 Seriously, you should go ahead. The knowledge base accumulated would be useful.


    Ok, I’ll contribute this, earlier post on a US study that compared the mathematical education of the two countries.

  3. this side of paradise Says:

    Blaming the educational system for learning the wrong system of English isn’t the proper answer, nor the reason why Singaporeans do not use English properly.

    The fact remains that most people do not put an effort into using their English properly, and learning it properly in the first place.

    How else do you explain the fact that while my English appeared to be learnt properly, my classmates didn’t?


    Presumably there are a variety of environmental factors to consider–apart from the institutional ones. And the former are likely to be more influential than the latter. The fact remainds that it is possible to get by quite well, for most people, on most normal days in Singapore without having to speak a sentence of ‘proper English’, or accent one’s words the right way, or what not…

    But these sorts of things are seldom deterministic.

  5. Wai Kay Says:

    Ack you stole my topic I wanted to write. grr. Next time dun tell you liao.

    The point I want to make is that perhaps the government movement to abolish Singlish might have backfired. By trying to eliminate something close to our culture, it could have brought out the rebelious nature in us to refuse to place emphasis on proper English. I do not expect people to speak the Queen’s English but at least be grammatically correct and properly pronounced.

    Well I can understand and forgive certain people, like housewives and such, for their incorrect English, I am greatly disturbed that people expected to speak/use proper English can’t do so.

    Perhaps if the emphasis was not to discourage Singlish–or if it wasn’t then perhaps say it explictly–but instead put in focus on encouraging proper English when the need arises, people might pay more attention.

  6. Wai Kay Says:

    Environmental factors might be a cause but until a formal study is done, based on personal exprience, I do not seen a consistency between the variables.

    For example I know of friends who come from “Mandarin speaking” schools and chinese backgrounds, use Singlish in normal daily conversations but able to deliever perfect English right down to the “t”s, “d”s and “th”s when the need arises.

    I myself was blessed to have a English teacher in sec sch who placed emphasis on correctness of spoken English and grammar rules. When asked how you determine the correct form of the verb, my sister just replies that it just sounds fluent. Oftentimes, given our colloquial language spoken, what sounds fluent might not be correct.

    PS: Just found out that some girl only realised the difference between “it’s” and “its” after 20 yrs of education. Hee

  7. this side of paradise Says:

    “It’s” is a contraction of “it is”.
    “Its” means “belonging to”.

  8. ketsugi Says:

    Excellent discourse. I’m also very intrigued as to why there seems to be such a disparity between the “English-educated” and the “Singlish-educated”. I was blessed with a foundation of English in the USA (was there for preschool), and coupled with a healthy love for reading in English this helped to foster a fluency in, and indeed, a love for the English language.

    I switch between English and Singlish easily and quickly, though 2 and a half years in the army increased my penchant for Singlish. Yet it seems many of my friends, university undergraduates and graduates inclusive, only ever speak in Singlish. Most are able to conjure up proper English for the purpose of writing essays or reports, but cannot for some reason speak it, whether because they just can’t, or they feel uncomfortable or awkward doing so.

  9. Justina Says:

    eh don’t say steal leh. steal is when I do not start off the post with ‘Yk was talking about’. Heh. I’m merely making my own comments about what you said. I expect you to post your article soon too! Stop procastinating! 😀

  10. this side of paradise Says:

    Hey, Ket, you stay Bishan eh? ;o)

    Like you, I switch between English and Singlish easily. However, I’ve recently noted that while I can easily translate Mandarin to English, I just cannot seem to translate it back.

  11. gerald Says:

    I think the penchant for speaking improper english is due mainly to environmental factors. Like most of you, I was brought up in a english-speaking family, and exposed to english literature from a very young age. Unfortunately, the brand of english spoken at home by parents and siblings was rife with improperly-pronounced words and most of the time my pronunciation had to be corrected by friends and acquaintances, often with embarrassing consequences.

    Luckily I was able to divorce spoken and written english, so that while I wasn’t confident speaking off the cuff, my prose was grammatically proper. I’m still working on my spoken english now.

    About translating english back to mandarin: Well, I guess you just have to read more chinese works. You just have to learn chinese the same way you learned english. Blog in chinese, maybe?

  12. beau lotus Says:

    I have always said that Singlish is not bad English. Bad English is broken English. Singlish is the way we like to speak a language that resembles English, using English for its support and structure, something that reflects the different races in our country and that gives us a certain identity. I think we tend to switch languages in the same sentence because subconsciously we were looking for the ”right” words in the different languages and dialects we know. And the beauty of it is to be able to switch between English and Singlish, not to restrict yourself to either. I have a distinction in received pronunction (aka Queen’s English) from NUS but you wouldn’t see me dead speaking it. It’s just not me. Now that I am reasonably fluent in French, I consider it my mission to visit blogs written in French about Singapore.

  13. sean Says:

    in regards to the matter about improving the english in singapore, i feel that it has been embedded too much into singaporeans. Not that we cannot speak correct english, just that we feel comfortable mixing the lahs and lehs around.

    If there is one way to improve the system, i think that it is to allow more freedom to the students as well as not making mother tongue compulsory.

    The streaming of courses at a young age lets the students think that they are specialised in one direction, or they already planned what they hope to achieve. How can that burden be imposed on our young teenagers when honestly, all they want to do is have fun?

    Mother tongue, in my opinion, is optional because what is the point of forcing the students to take another language when we focus so much on english, which our dear gahmen encourages so much?

    just my humble opinion

  14. Thierry Kron Says:

    The French are pissed off, “our” language is not the global tongue anymore even not in the diplomatic and elitist world. I am often in Singapore and just have great fun with Singlish, mixing the melodious Chinese and picking words in Malay and of course English. Melodious, humoristic but not necessarily easy to understand when someone like me as been taught proper English since childhood. I wish all Singaporeans to never lost their sense of humour and poesy, but as a foreigner, I’ll be happy if at least they will learn to pronounce the R letter.
    The first thing I learnt is to use my lahs and other things, like to say Gun Kai and So Kai.
    I will be very glad if someone give me some examples of saying “I love you” in singlish, it will enrich my Blog Note on the MRT Campaign for a better spoken English by young people in love.

  15. Fly lice, anyone?The love-hate relationship with Singlish | Singapore 101 Says:

    […] http://singaporewatch.org/?p=24 […]

  16. Researcher Says:

    Hi, I’m doing some research on Singlish… Can anyone like give me your views on the Speak Good English campaign and speaking Singlish? Thanks. BTW your article was interesting. I helped me quite a bit.

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