By Sylvia Toh Paik Choo
Die for us.
We think we speak good English. But when confronted by a professional who learned the English language properly, suddenly our England not so powderful.
To get to the root of this, we have to return to our roots.
English is not the original language of most of us Malays, Indians, Chinese here. Ask your Eurasian neighbour. It has become the national common language, acquired by our forefathers (as in other countries).
The adoption (of language) for survival reasons often suffered distortions in pronunciation, syntax and grammar, rendering the spoken into something pidgin, creole, patois.
So in reality, the way most Singaporeans talk is lazy English, short-cut English, and this is, of course, of grave national concern.
The expression is Think Local Go Global, NOT Speak Local etcetera!
Picture this, a Singaporean and an Indian national professional, in conversation. You can tell that the Indian's English may be heavily accented, but it is impeccable and fluent. While the Singaporean does not have an accent, he is speaking rojak English which the Indian cannot follow, never mind understand.
Or take the China national who has studied English - not out of colonisation - but professionally, because he wants to do business internationally. He may not speak it BBC-pukka, but again, it is excellent formal English.
When he is faced with a Singaporean who can pronounce the English but strings the sentence carelessly with bibs and bobs of Singlish and dialect (a la Phua Chu Kang), he will go away with the not-entirely-wrong impression that in general, Singaporeans speak a low-grade, sub-prime English.
Today, you cannot afford to study the English language just to survive the workplace; it is now indispensable for conducting yourself professionally in the global marketplace.
Wake up your idea, Singapore. Sit up and quit that relaxed English, that's a trademark and identity we need to lose.
This article was first published in The New Paper.