Singapore Expats Forum

Is it really that difficult to get this right?

Discuss about life in Singapore. Ask about cost of living, housing, travel, etiquette & lifestyle. Share experience & advice with Singaporeans & expat staying in Singapore.

Sponsored by:
Image
AE Logistics - Singapore Movers

durian123
Member
Member
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon, 13 Sep 2010

Postby durian123 » Tue, 06 Nov 2012 8:40 am

I'm sure some of these comments are good-natured fun-poking but given the number of times I've heard expats moaning about how "these people can't speak English!" (and from there it's only one small step to a colonial era-like "these people just aren't like us"), I have to quickly jump in.

Despite what another poster hinted at, even a cursory glance at any linguistics book will tell you that (a) people talk different(ly) everywhere, and I really mean everywhere, and (b) using language to define political identity, usually with the consequence of oppressing one group or another has a long and inglorious history (anybody ever looked up the history of "shibboleth"?). Also language does not *cause* thought, so calm down.

Getting your linguistics right will tell you that it's not bad Mandarin or bad English: just different. British English is different from (than?) American English (let alone say, Black Vernacular English) and neither is bad.

I personally love the fact that we can see a whole new language evolve (Singlish), and searching the archives of LanguageLog throws up this other positive comment by the venerable Victor Mair: [url]http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003798.html[/url]
And I'm no expert, but Singlish does appear to be grammatical in the sense that it follows precise rules (when you can and can't say issit, oso, oredy, can etc) and is understood to be correct or incorrect by other native speakers.

As for the whole "nothing ain't like it used to be in my day" trope, I'd like to point you to this delightful post by The Economist: "we have been here before" [url]http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2011/08/civil-disorder-and-looting-hits-britain-0[/url]
[/url]

User avatar
nutnut
Manager
Manager
Posts: 1853
Joined: Thu, 24 Nov 2011
Location: The Mainland....

Postby nutnut » Tue, 06 Nov 2012 10:10 am

fair point, I still hate "Kindly do the needful" :|
nutnut

User avatar
nakatago
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 8333
Joined: Tue, 01 Sep 2009
Location: Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children
Contact:

Postby nakatago » Tue, 06 Nov 2012 10:15 am

Here's an idea: stop calling Singlish English. Singlish has become a completely different language from English as it already has its own grammar.

There you go; expectations managed. English speakers get placated, Singlish speakers get to define their cultural identity.

User avatar
the lynx
Governor
Governor
Posts: 5266
Joined: Thu, 09 Dec 2010
Location: Location: Location: Location: Location: Location: Location: Location: Location: Location: Location:

Postby the lynx » Tue, 06 Nov 2012 10:31 am

Accents and cultural nuances are one thing (hence, certain characteristics in Singlish/Manglish) but grammar -- it shouldn't go wrong; it is standard!

I hear a lot of non-English speakers speaking English and while their accents may be quite some work, their sentence structure and basic grammar is correct.

Having said that, please be gentle to me when you hear me speak in person. I sound differently in person than here :P After all, I come from the offending group. :)



"Coat, hat, brollies..."

User avatar
Brah
Manager
Manager
Posts: 1956
Joined: Sat, 18 Dec 2010

Postby Brah » Tue, 06 Nov 2012 5:28 pm

Maybe I should have said this wasn't meant to be Yet Another Singlish Rant at the start, because there is a difference between a pidgin like Singlish, and incorrect grammar.

The OP was about the latter - pidgin, patois, or not, incorrect grammar is incorrect grammar.

For Singlish commentary, it could be said that that horse has been beaten to death on this and the other forums, or not, since there are always new and entertaining examples. So there should at least be a sticky for that.

But to add, then there's idioms, like nutnut's example, and within that, screwed-up idioms (there's a thread or two on other forums on that).

So in this thread we've go a mix of all of the above. My grammar rant stands, I'd be interested to see a separate thread on mixed-up idioms, because the list is long but I've never seen one in print. I've never heard so many since coming here.

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Postby JR8 » Tue, 06 Nov 2012 7:07 pm

durian123 wrote:I'm sure some of these comments are good-natured fun-poking but given the number of times I've heard expats moaning about how "these people can't speak English!" (and from there it's only one small step to a colonial era-like "these people just aren't like us"), I have to quickly jump in.


But it wasn't 'the colonists' who ran campaigns encouraging them to speak good English was it? I expect you can see where your contention leads.

kookaburrah
Regular
Regular
Posts: 141
Joined: Thu, 21 Aug 2008
Location: SG

Postby kookaburrah » Fri, 30 Nov 2012 11:26 am

durian123 wrote:
Getting your linguistics right will tell you that it's not bad Mandarin or bad English: just different. British English is different from (than?) American English (let alone say, Black Vernacular English) and neither is bad.


[/url]


'To lend' is different from 'to borrow'. To willfully ignore the distinction seems to go beyond the wondrous birth of a cultural identity.


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “Staying, Living in Singapore”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: kiatme and 3 guests