Wah… need to have PhD to speak Singlish leh!

In Singapore, the official language for work is English. Why ah? Orh… Because hor… you see ah… last time Singapore was an ang moh colony mah. Then hor, because our gahmen think that if we stuck to using English, it would help us better communicate with the rest of the world. The gahmen think that would make it easier for us to do business. That’s why our official language is English lor.

But hor. You know lah. Singapore is multi-racial and multi-lingual society. And not everyone’s English is steady bom pi pi one. So when people from different cultures come together hor, they bo bian will add a bit of their own language, whether it is Malay, Tamil, Mandarin, Hokkien, or whatever. This helps us understand one another better. The result. Singlish lor.

Recently, even the ang mohs have seemed to accept Singlish. In March this year, 19 Singlish words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary. A consultant editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Dr Danica Salazar, said that Singlish doesn’t destroy the English language, but enriches it. Buay pai leh! Steady la!

Oxford Dictionary consultant editor Dr Danica Salazar (Photo: Nurul Azliah/Yahoo Newsroom)

Oxford Dictionary consultant editor Dr Danica Salazar (Photo: Nurul Azliah/Yahoo Newsroom)

Some have seen this as a victory of Singlish. Finally ah! After kena whack by gahmen for so long, Singlish now steady liao! That was the point that Dr Gwee Li Sui tried to make in an op-ed in the New York Times:

“Our wacky, singsong creole may seem like the poor cousin to the island’s four official languages, but years of state efforts to quash it have only made it flourish. Now even politicians and officials are using it.”

Indeed. After years of whacking Singlish, suddenly come GE, PAP politicians left right center started to use Singlish. Remember Sim Ann’s “chut pattern” speech?

Ok… strictly speaking, that was a Mandarin speech. But “chut pattern” is undeniably Singlish. And even our PM Lee now has encouraged new citizens to learn Singlish. He said this at a citizenship ceremony in 2012:

“Don’t just mix amongst yourselves, or with people who have come from the same country as you, but make friends with Singaporeans – with your neighbours, with your colleagues, with your children’s schoolmates, and pick up Singaporean customs, lifestyles, norms, social rules. And if you can understand “Singlish”, so much the better (emphasis mine)!”

But hor… don’t be too happy yet. Because the gahmen still don’t quite support Singlish liddat leh. PM Lee’s press secretary, Ms Li Lin Chang, wrote a reply to Dr Gwee’s op-ed article. The reply was also published in NYT.  In that reply, Ms Chang really whack Dr Gwee one time jialat jialat. She say explained that:

“Standard English is vital for Singaporeans to earn a living and be understood not just by other Singaporeans but also English speakers everywhere. But English is not the mother tongue of most Singaporeans. For them, mastering the language requires extra effort. Using Singlish will make it harder for Singaporeans to learn and use standard English.”

Ya la. We know… a lot of Singaporeans’ standard of English is cannot make it one la. You mean that Singlish is to blame if Singaporeans’ standard of English is teruk ah? Really meh? How you know ah? Maybe it’s the other way round – Singlish came about because Singaporeans’ English is not powderful.

After all the years of English education, all the money spent on tuition, using mainly English in school, if Singaporeans’ English really still cannot make it, then perhaps there is something wrong in the way we are teaching English. To blame Singlish for the lousy standard of English of some Singaporeans is being intellectually lazy and completely barking up the wrong tree!

And you know what’s lagi worse? Ms Chang’s letter is completely hypocritical. If Singlish were really such a terrible influence, then how come during GE2015 so many politicians use Singlish leh? And not just GE. Normal times our politicians also got use. In fact, Ms Chang’s boss recently used Singlish too!

Screenshot from PM Lee's Twitter

Screenshot from PM Lee’s Twitter

“I was on jalanjalan”… what kind of English is that?! Oh… it’s Singlish. See. You mean PM can use Singlish then the rest of us cannot meh? Why? Cos PM is smart and the rest of us are stupid? Because that is what Ms Chang was insinuating when she tried to suan Dr Gwee:

“Not everyone has a Ph.D. in English Literature like Mr. Gwee, who can code-switch effortlessly between Singlish and standard English, and extol the virtues of Singlish in an op-ed written in polished standard English.”

Your boss also don’t have Ph.D. in English Literature. So how come he can use Singlish in his tweet and still be understood by English speakers everywhere leh?

So you tell me la. How to take the gahmen’s letter seriously? Stupid.

Featured image Singlish by Flickr user chocogatoCC BY-NC 2.0.



2 thoughts on “Wah… need to have PhD to speak Singlish leh!

  1. “Standard English is vital for Singaporeans to earn a living”

    Tell that to the millions of foreigners working in S’pore who either can’t speak a word of English or are barely literate in it. And these foreigners are preferred employees and are eating the lunch, breakfast & dinner of Sinkies. I often encounter PRCs who have been working in S’pore for 5 years and can’t even speak a sentence of English, and have trouble understanding if you speak more than 2 sentences of English. And yet they get to keep their jobs; their employers keep renewing their work passes. Even though they are supposed to be frontline staff interacting with customers from all walks of life & ethnic backgrounds.


  2. Pingback: Can’t use Singlish, but Indian English can? | crazyrandomchatter

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