April 21: That person is very havoc, always out late every night. If you ever hear one Singaporean telling another that, don’t rush to correct them. The two are merely having a chat about the nocturnal habits of someone else, in Singlish, the unofficial lingo of Singaporeans.
A mixture of English, Malay, Chinese and local slang, Singlish is English with a peppering of Singaporean colloquialisms. But like most hybrids, it does not get much respect, nor is it understood by non-Singaporeans. So, the government of Singapore has advised its citizens to adopt standard English.
Singapore’s government has launched a “speak good English movement” among its people. It wants to convince Singaporeans to learn “proper” English grammar, sentence structures and pronounciation. The idea is to make them speak a form of English readily understood by the rest of the world. It has big plans of globalisation for Singapore, says a report in The Hindu newspaper.
That does not mean speaking with put-on American or British accents. What it means is that Singaporeans must speak a form of English that is readily understood by people all over the world.
Since English is a global language, a proficiency in it would help Singaporeans plug into the global economy, develop the city into an international centre and link up with the rest of the world through trade and investment.
For this purpose, the governemnt has set up the ENTHUSE committee, which stands for Encouraging the Use of Standard English. The committee aims to improve the standard of English of both students and teachers by introducing programmes and activities.
Singaporeans comprise people of Chinese, Malay and Tamil origins. Most of them speak their mother tongues at home as these symbolise the only link with their homelands.
Otherwise they use English, which by virtue of being a standard international language, increases the job prospects of the youth. Since it makes it easier for them to interact with people from other parts of the world. So, they are endorsing the government’s recent move.
The Singapore government’s move comes in the wake of similar attempts by the governments of countries where English is not the native language. In Sri Lanka, too, the government has planned to make English the medium of instruction in all government schools for students in the higher classes.
Even in India, where English is the second language of many people, several state governemnts are hurriedly reintroducing English in their state schools.
Recognising a universal common language in English, the governments want their people to catch up with the English-speakers as quickly as possible. It’s strictly business, of course.