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MOE says Native English teachers needed!

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MOE says Native English teachers needed!

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 1:42 pm

Well, This ought to generate some opinions from the gallery. Many of us have been preaching here to no avail with regard to the poor standard of English spoken in Singapore. It seems, at least, that the MOE has been listening and also acknowledges that we were right all along.

Singlish is NOT a local version of English but more a Pidgeon English spoken here. The "Proper" English being taught in the Public School system is fraught with grammatical errors and just generally poor levels of spoken English. Written English is even worse.

My question is How did this happen? Before the locals started teaching English and Grammer here, there were 'Native English' Teachers (read British) here. The Older English Teachers were taught by these Native English Speakers originally, the newer were taught by the locals. Is it the fact that they were just too lazy to keep using proper English after finishing school so that when they started "Teaching" they had already forgotten all the basic rules?

I'd actually like to hear from those on the board who are local and constantly defended their usage of Singlish as well at those who are more adept with the language due to their approximation with foreigners where they are forced to use a better form of English.

Hopefully, some of the former (singlish defenders) will be able to decipher what I've written here in order to participate in this discussion.

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Re: MOE says Native English teachers needed!

Postby Wind In My Hair » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 2:06 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:I'd actually like to hear from those on the board who are local and constantly defended their usage of Singlish as well at those who are more adept with the language due to their approximation with foreigners where they are forced to use a better form of English.

i defend the use of singlish, and use it myself, to the extent that the user is able to handle it as a totally separate language from proper english and is able to switch back and forth at will between the two. if one can master only one of the two, then imo singlish should go.

sorry to disappoint, but i read, wrote and spoke relatively good english from a young age, way before i had any 'approximation with foreigners'. i attribute this to reading voraciously as a child and having english-speaking parents.

so i'm not sure if i fall into either of your categories of locals above. but i certainly agree that it is high time english teachers learnt to speak proper english. it irks me no end when those who are tasked with teaching the language say things like op-POR-tunity, pepper sentences with 'actually', 'itself', 'basically' and other words that have actual meanings but for some reason become used as fillers.

bring back the native teachers, i'm all for it. in fact i think it will take two generations. mine already speaks 'half-past six' english (singlish for not very good). you can teach our children who will go home and hear bad english and get all confused. so they need constant reinforcement and exposure to good english. when their children learn english, it is that generation which is exposed to good english both at home and in school. then proper english will be entrenched. and that generation, i believe, will then be capable of teaching their children on their own.

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Postby earthfriendly » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 2:14 pm

I think the standard slipped when Singers started breathing life into "Singlish". Singers of my parent's generation who attended English school have a good mastery of the language. My parents are in their 70s. I had never done a survey. Do not the threshold of the age group whereby Singlish starts to take hold, signalling the death of standard English.

I would imagine those from old school hang on to what they were taught and continued using proper English. However as Singlish becomes more evolved, Singers start to identify it as a form of cultural identity. As a result, Singlish gains acceptance and ironically, respect. And with the prevalence of Singlish, it is only a matter of time that those old schoolers start using singlish themselves. When in Rome ............

I am surprise it takes MOE this long to tackle the issue. I have always thought that Singlish is a liability, and not an asset, for SG.

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 2:18 pm

earthfriendly wrote:I have always thought that Singlish is a liability, and not asset, for SG.

except when travelling or living overseas... when we know a fellow singaporean the moment he opens his mouth! :D

seriously, agree with you EF. there are better ways to have a unique singapore culture than one based on singlish.

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Postby earthfriendly » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 2:28 pm

Wind In My Hair wrote:seriously, agree with you EF. there are better ways to have a unique singapore culture than one based on singlish.


Not meant to offend. I think Singers sometimes get their priorties all wrong. The way to have an identity and be rooted is to know one's own language and culture. Not take someone else's language, thrash it and invent a mutant version of it and calling it our own. Not all but I found a proportion of the population lacking in knowledge about their own culture and mother language. And worse, their command of the English language just as bad.

Jack of all trade ..............

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 2:51 pm

earthfriendly wrote:Not meant to offend. I think Singers sometimes get their priorties all wrong. The way to have an identity and be rooted is to know one's own language and culture. Not take someone else's language, thrash it and invent a mutant version of it and calling it our own. Not all but I found a proportion of the population lacking in knowledge about their own culture and mother language. And worse, their command of the English language just as bad.

Jack of all trade ..............


Not digressing here, but EF, you bring up something else relevant to this that was broached earlier this year by none other than the architect of the bilingual system here, MM Lee himself. He has admitted that the bilingual policy was an error in as much as he now realizes that one cannot be effectively bilingual as ultimately both languages suffer.

If he is correct (this time) then what would be the prognosis for cure? An 80% Chinese population country who's largest trading partner is currently the US or bank on the rise of China and go back to Chinese Stream Schools and only teach English as a "Foreign" language as the US & UK do. Or do we go back to a variety of schools using English medium in some and Chinese medium in others? Is this practical? And more to the crux of the matter, who gets the bonus points in the eyes of the government? The faster advancement? The elitest title here (it still exists). If they bring in "Native English" speakers then will Mandarin be relegated to the back seat? Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

Talk about being stuck on the "Horns of a Dilemma"!

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Postby Plavt » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 4:46 pm

I remember this subject or similar being discussed before but am not surprised at its re-emergence. In my experiences I am always amused at Singaporean residents who claim English as their first language the truth is it isn't. A great many Singaporeans being of Chinese, Malay and Indian extraction speak their respective languages at home using English at school, work or in public.

I believe this is the basis of the problem and it will be a number of years before Singaporeans really speak English without 'converting' it too their liking is as best as I can put it.

Bringing in native English teachers will likely make little if any difference to this situation but might help a little in schools from what sms says. To me it seems the Singaporean English teachers are much what French teachers were when I was at school - not as proficient or as fluent as they would have others believe.



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Re: MOE says Native English teachers needed!

Postby jpatokal » Mon, 12 Jun 2006 11:01 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Singlish is NOT a local version of English but more a Pidgeon English spoken here.

I think you mean "pidgin".

My question is How did this happen? Before the locals started teaching English and Grammer here

That should be spelled "grammar".

Is it the fact that they were just too lazy to keep using proper English after finishing school so that when they started "Teaching" they had already forgotten all the basic rules?

And the sentence above is what you call proper English?

I'd actually like to hear from those on the board who are local and constantly defended their usage of Singlish as well at those who are more adept with the language due to their approximation with foreigners where they are forced to use a better form of English.

I don't think "approximation" means what you think it does...

---

Now that we've finished throwing stones in glass houses, I'll just comment on your original assertion. You're using "pidgin" as an insult, but it's a well-defined linguistics term, meaning a spontaneously created mixture of languages. Singlish certainly was one when Raffles & co. first stepped off the ship, but Singapore already has three generations if not more of native Singlish speakers, meaning that the pidgin has long since undergone creolization. This means that linguistically, it is a language, and sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling "nyah nyah, I can't hear you" like our beloved Garmen has been doing for the past 40 years isn't going to change this.

And MM Lee's bizarre rants about bilingualism being impossible have been disproved time and time again. The problem in Singapore is that most people end up de-facto quadrilingual: they speak Singlish and their family's Chinese dialect natively, and they cram English and Mandarin at school. Obviously the last two, being essentially artificial, are going to suffer.
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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 12:52 am

First of all, I don't claim to be anything more than a farmboy. I don't claim to use proper English either. And, if that isn't bad enough I can't type worth a damn either. Now that that's out of the way.....

As Singlish does NOT follow any specific laws of grammar it cannot be considered a language.

According to your source:

Pidgins become creole languages when a generation whose parents speak pidgin to each other teach it to their children as their first language. Often creoles can then replace the existing mix of languages to become the native language of the current community (such as Krio in Sierra Leone and Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea). However, pidgins do not always become creoles—they can die out or become obsolete.


Then I would have to say your assumption that creolization has taken place is incorrect and Singlish is not taught at home as the first language. Dialect is usually taught at home. English and mother tongue taught in school. Singlish is usually learned on the street. Just like Jive or Homeboy in the US. I guess you will now say they are proper languages as well?

So, therefore, I submit that liguistically Singlish in NOT a Language. While it may not be pidgin, the fact that according to "your" source it usually takes three languages intertwined to arrive at pidgin, would more place it there than anywhere else.

Pidgins have simple grammars and few synonyms, serving as auxiliary contact languages. They are learnt as second languages rather than natively.

Also, Keith Whinnom (in Hymes 1971) suggests that pidgins need three languages to form, with one (the superstrate) being clearly dominant over the others.


I would suggest is would have been nicer to ask me what I meant instead of "Ass U Me"ing that I meant "Pidgeon" as an insult. No one who has been posting on the thread so far is insulting anybody or carrying any chips on their shoulders, why should you start assuming they are?

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Postby Ecka Dimmock » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 9:27 am

I don't see that there is necessarily any conflict between Singlish and 'standard' English being taught in schools.

The main misapprehension I see here is the assumption that people only speak one register of English for all purposes. In fact, people can and do vary their speech according to setting. The US survives despite the wierd vowels of southerners and da rappers. The British economy has so far struggled along despite the Welsh, Cockneys and Geordies.

Every form of English, and every language with significant geographic distribution has local variants. That's just the way language is: people want a local identity, they want to 'own' their language and use it to create a community. Corporate planners might prefer that Singaporeans speak English like the British royal family (and presumably Beijing-accented Putonghua) but it isn't going to happen.

But teach them how to do it so they can turn it on when meeting foreign clients, no problem.

And when you return to the farm, SMS, keep us posted on your efforts to get your neighbours to speak like Prince Charles, won't you? :)

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Postby earthfriendly » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 9:58 am

Ecka, I get your point. I do not think of Singlish as a lesser languge and am not against it out of snobbery. It is more out of pragmatic reason. If the average Singaporean can master English, Singlish, Mandarin (or Malay or Tamil) and chinese dialects simultaneously, I say go for it. Otherwise, they just have to make a conscientious choice on which languages they want to keep.

Based on my observation, many could not pull off all these languages at the same time. The result is "half bucket" command i.e. poor mastery of all the languages. If my lingustic ability limits me to two languages, I personally will choose English (language of commerce) and Mandarin (cultural root). I find it quite a challenge going back and forth between these two languages. And if I have to factor in Singlish and dialect, it becomes quite a feat. It sure is tough for me.

SMS, unfortunately I do not have a solution either. I am wishing for perfection in an imperfect world. I think it is important that Singers retain their mother tongue at the same time when they are learning English.
Last edited by earthfriendly on Tue, 13 Jun 2006 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 10:06 am

Why would I be trying to get american farmers to talk like prince charlie? :???: I don't, and neither am I english.

How did I become the MOE? Just because I happen to agree with them as far as the "singlish' not being a language? As the language has no grammatical structure per se, how would one "teach" it at it has no rules to follow. At least other forms of English all follow basic grammatical rules.

As far as the two co-existing, if they could I don't think it would be a problem. But as a businessman here for over 2 decades, I don't see it co-existing at all as the majority cannot write a decent business letter and people's resume's are just as bad. We are not talking vowels, accents, and isolated pockets of local speak. What we are talking about is a country who wants so very badly to be number one in everything and now finds both of their main languages are wanting.

I am obviously not saying all Singaporeans cannot speak English. Only a fool would think that. It's just like anything else. It's a matter of perception. How is perception formed? Once the percentage gets past a certain point it then becomes a stereotype - rightly or wrongly. The government has tried for so many years with so many campaigns to get people to use proper grammar with little effect.........if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then the odds are...........?

Do any of you besides myself, have kids in local secondary schools? Neighbourhood schools? I had one in a 'rated' school and one in a 'neighbourhood' school. The one in a neighbourhood school has atrocious english. I find it almost impossible to carry on a conversation with his teachers when I go to the school. If that is the quality of english that they teach then this country does have an problem and the Government is right.

Back to my original question. What should be done to enable this country's leaders to attain the goals that they seek? Is it possible?

I agree, everybody is entitled to their own opinions and mine are no more right than yours are. But, I ask my questions based on the right of the Government to desire that the population speak a version of english that is comprehensible by the rest of the world.

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Postby earthfriendly » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 10:16 am

SMS, I don't know lah! Don't have a solution for the country lah!

Ha, ha, ha, upon first visit to SG, my SO asked me what "lah" means! In retrospect, I should have explained to him that "lah" is a musical note, just like "do, ray, mi". It has no meaning in itself, just for the sound (melodious) effect. :D

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 10:23 am

Good Morning Earthfriendly!

I've only got one thing to say.......... :tongue: :wink:

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Tue, 13 Jun 2006 10:36 am

earthfriendly wrote:I should have explained to him that "lah" is a musical note, just like "do, ray, mi". It has no meaning in itself, just for the sound (melodious) effect. :D

EF, bagus lah! :D i'll start doing that myself.

when foreigners learn about the 'lah' they start adding it to all sorts of phrases and somehow the way they do it just doesn't sound right. so believe it or not, there is actually a proper way to use the "lah". does that make singlish a language with its own rules of grammar?


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