Thursday, 15 May 2008

An Irritating Truth (lah)

Rosetta StoneI've written before about how Singaporean speech is an eclectic tonic of English and Chinese with mixed vocabulary, grammar and accent. For balance sake, I should point out examples of excellent English use.

A newspaper covered an explosion in some Bukit Merah flats which blew out windows and substantially destroyed or damage several units. After describing the neighbours collection of belongings, the article went on to quote the fire dept:

"A gas leak is believed to have contributed to the explosion"

Well, Duh! But I wonder how many people would have carelessly used "caused" in this instance? A cause is certainly more definite but likely overstating the body of evidence. Next up is an example of a colleague answering the 'phone in the office:

"Yes?" ... "This is she" ...

That's nice and absolutely correct. It's all a matter of background of course. Schooling and parents' speech at home are primary contributors.

But 2 memorable examples from over 18 months is worrying thin evidence of strong language competency. Singapore should be in a supreme position to capitalise on its widespread English and Mandarin ability. They should be a regional Rosetta Stone, valuable in the global marketplace but, in all honesty, the opportunity is being squandered by the casual mish-mash that is Singlish combined with the regional accent.

I think it's quaint and fun, but the harsh economic reality is that the status quo vox populi may be cute & comforting but on the world stage, it's baby talk that needs to be left behind.