radio shows can help banish singlish

Read this ridiculous letter in my paper eons ago:

Radio shows can help banish Singlish

I REFER to the letter, “Citizens must play part in banishing Singlish” (my paper, May 25).

I agree strongly with the sentiments expressed.

Many people think that the accent makes Singlish what it is, but they have it wrong. It is the grammar and sentence structure that set Singlish apart.

Many adults take Singlish lightly, not aware that using it to communicate with their children would affect the kids’ essay- writing skills.

I urge all adults to be more mindful of their use of Singlish and stop imparting it to the young.

Last Tuesday night, I was at a clinic when I heard a woman tell her son: “Ask your dad to run fast, our number is going to be reached.”

That is the first time I have heard such a sentence. I would say: “Get your daddy here now, it will be our turn soon.”

The issue is not about the speed of running, but that it would soon be the family’s turn.

After I had seen the doctor, I went to a hawker centre and overheard a parent asking his children in Singlish: “What you want to call?”

He could have said “go order your food”, if the kids were ordering their meals, or said “what is your pick tonight”, if he was ordering for them.

Both incidents show that many adults speak Singlish to their children.

They have difficulty in constructing a sentence that makes sense.

This could be a sign that the working environment here is filled with people speaking Singlish.

After all, if you are in an environment where people speak English, you would feel inferior and would try to maintain your competency in English, and use it at home as well.

We may have many educated Singaporeans, but look at how incompetent in English we are.

Parents are concerned about their children’s education and invest in their studies.

However, all those investments would come to naught if Singlish surrounds the children all the time, from school to home. Their efforts would simply go down the drain.

Singlish need to be watched out for and banned.

We can save Singaporeans from being a laughing stock if more people are mindful about what they say, and are observant, so as to learn to pick up better- constructed phrases.

For that to work, our society needs to have more people speaking English to help Singlish speakers improve their English competency.

One way is to have radio stations broadcast Singlish- to-English translation programmes, where commonly used Singlish phrases, as well as their equivalent English phrases, are featured.

For instance, a Singlish utterance like “you wait for me first.

Later, after 10 minutes, I come back”, can be translated to “give me 10 minutes and I’ll be right back”.

Programmes on radio stations are a great way to reach out to people.

MADAM LIM SIEW MEI

my paper, 1 June 2010

And this is how one blogger responded to it:

From ‘Radio shows can help banish Singlish’ 1 June 2010, Viewpoints, My Paper

…Many adults take Singlish lightly, not aware that using it to communicate with their children would affect the kids’ essay- writing skills.

…Last Tuesday night, I was at a clinic when I heard a woman tell her son: “Ask your dad to run fast, our number is going to be reached.” That is the first time I have heard such a sentence. I would say: “Get your daddy here now, it will be our turn soon.” The issue is not about the speed of running, but that it would soon be the family’s turn.

…Many adults speak Singlish to their children. They have difficulty in constructing a sentence that makes sense. We may have many educated Singaporeans, but look at how incompetent in English we are.

…Singlish need to be watched out for and banned.

…One way is to have radio stations broadcast Singlish- to-English translation programmes, where commonly used Singlish phrases, as well as their equivalent English phrases, are featured.

If the sentence doesn’t ‘make sense’, how the hell did you manage to translate it to proper English then, Mdm Lim Siew Mei? The argument against Singlish is as old as time immemorial and I’ve had about enough of these Anglosnobs plotting to rid our society of what’s fast becoming the only thing that makes us unique. Language is not about fancy sentence construction, it’s about communicating and being understood effortlessly, and the beauty of human cognition is how we readily switch from linguistic shortcuts via Singlish to proper English when the situation calls for it. If you thought ‘Ask you dad to run fast’ was bad (it’s actually grammatically correct, and technically, you do need to run fast when it’s your turn anyway), you obviously haven’t come across the more commonly used stroke of genius that is ”Ask your dad faster!”, where the verb and adjective are combined in one word. Singlish is the great neutraliser among society’s ranks, ministers use it to connect with the people, TV uses it to maintain ratings, video games use it to promote Singapore, and even if by some insane mandate someone decides to ban it, you just can’t. And radio, especially, would be the last means of doing it. As for the translation bit, no one is ever going to take you seriously when you attempt to convert the Singlish ‘Like that also can’ into something like ‘Good golly! I would never have expected this imbecilic letter getting published in  a prestigious paper!’

from here

Gotta say I loved his response. Check out his blog, Everything Also Complain, where he chronicles complaints made by Singaporeans in the media over the years. The best part of the blog must be the decades-old forum letters dredged up from the bowels of the Straits Times’ archives. Interestingly enough, people nowadays do complain about the same things as people in the past did. Which probably goes to show that some things never change, like ignoramuses who often put forth the same old spurious and fallacious arguments as to why Singlish is the bane of Singaporean society and must be banned. :D

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