Saturday, April 28, 2007

Speak Good English - Whose English?

Jollypuddle and Fox present their opposing views on Singaporeans' standard of spoken English. To cut the long story short - I am leaning towards towards the former's argument. Or maybe because I find this offensive:

...looking at the Singaporean undergraduates in my university, the problem seems to be getting worse with younger people. Or maybe it's because many of them come from SAP schools where the lingua franca is Mandarin. Good grief, what do English teachers do in those schools?

While I certainly speak with a distinct Singaporean accent, I think my pronunciation is clearly understood by my advisor and PhD committee (all US-born-and-educated Caucasian males), as well as by my American peers. But Singlish should be avoided, especially when speaking to non-Singaporeans/Malaysians, more because of sentence structure than actual pronunciation.

When we consider the question of standard English what we find, in effect, is double standards. The very idea of a standard implies stability, and this can only be fixed in reference to the past. But language is of its nature unstable. It is essentially protean in nature, adapting its shape to suit changing circumstances. It would otherwise lose its vitality and its communicative and communal value.

How English develops in the world is no business whatever of native speakers in England, the United States, or anywhere else. They have no say in the matter, no right to intervene or pass judgment. They are irrelevant. The very fact that English is an international language means that no nation can have custody over it. - Widdowson

Eric Ringmar, formerly a lecturer at LSE, sums it best:

Great American universities like Harvard and Yale may pride themselves in their multiculturalism, but they know little about it. At Yale we were some token foreign students in a corner of the classroom, but the majority of the students were regular, all-American, kids. This is not the case at the LSE. There may be more English students here than others, but we don’t do ‘minorities,’ we are all minorities of some kind or another. Everyone is included, no one cannot take part.

This is why the official language of the School is broken English. Personally I speak this language perfectly fluently.

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