The New York Times: The Reality Behind Singlish

The New York Times: The Reality Behind Singlish

In response to an opinion by Gwee Li Sui: Do You Speak Singlish?

Li Lin Chang in a letter to The New York Times:

Gwee Li Sui’s “Politics and the Singlish Language” (Opinion, May 13) makes light of the government’s efforts to promote the mastery of standard English by Singaporeans…

… 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. 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.

Everything about Li Lin Chang’s response to Gwee Li Sui’s opinion regarding celebrating Singlish as an unofficial creole, irks me through my skin. She sounds elitist, as if the only people who should be entitled to use Singlish are those who have a level of proficiency of the English language and can code switch. The initial sentence is just condescending to the entire opinion that Gwee has outlined, and has also given more examples about how Singlish is used at an everyday speak.

Never mind that almost anybody who needs to add an air of authenticity to the persuasions, would also use Singlish to connect to the masses. I’ve noticed it in formal education (Any teacher who isn’t an English language teacher, tends to revert to Singlish to communicate complex lessons, and yes, politicians have definitely started to impart their slogans in Singlish or in a dialect.

It’s good to be versed in English since its a global language of business and there have been many merits for being able to communicate with the International market, but Singlish is something that we use conversationally, and not for international business or relations. If anything, it’s a cultural phenomena that we use to be ourselves, to escape from the druddgeries of daily toil. It’s us in our home clothes.

If Singaporeans have a poor proficiency in the English language, it’s not because we use Singlish, but more because we simply don’t practice standard English enough.