IT IS wonderful that a Sunday Times report ('My bigini is BOOMZ', Sept 13) sparked a lively discussion on the poor standard of spoken English.
This nationwide problem has arisen because teachers in most kindergartens, childcare centres and lower primary classes in neighbourhood schools generally speak Singlish and ungrammatical English to their pupils. So their speech patterns are imprinted indelibly in the minds of their pupils.
Improving spoken English among children will require the Government to dispatch teachers who speak good English to all classes islandwide from Primary 1 to 3.
The present set of kindergarten teachers could and should be sent on courses to improve their spoken English and Mandarin.
The Ministry of Education, principals and English department heads in schools must scrutinise the words taught to pupils in Primary 1 and 2.
For example, the Primary 1 English language worksheets of a school in Bukit Merah have words like 'rhinoceros' and 'giraffe'.
The first principle in teaching a language to young children is that the words and expressions taught must come from everyday life, and be immediately usable in their everyday speech.
Instead of teaching Primary 1 pupils the words 'rhinoceros' and 'giraffe', why not start them off with the names of indigenous animals, like 'tiger' or 'wild boar'?
Other unnecessarily difficult words in worksheets include 'escalator', 'screamed' and 'bandaged'. Are our vocabulary lists copied uncritically from American and British lists?
The same principles should apply to the teaching of Chinese and other languages.
I was shocked once when my children could not even order a bowl of noodles in Mandarin after three years of school instruction in their mother tongue.
The way languages are taught in schools should be reviewed and overhauled.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.