Monday, June 26, 2006

bringing in native English speakers to teach English in Singapore

this is one of the big debates in singapore right now. apparently the standard of english has reached such appalling levels that the singapore government, known for its efficiency and ability to adapt to rapidly changing global conditions, has decided to swing into action and consider the possibility of recruiting native english speakers.

well, coming back from australia, where even their english is not the most perfect form of english, i can't help but feel that spoken english in singapore leaves much to be desired. even though the hardcore aussie accent is not the nicest sounding accent around, at least the pronounciation of words is more or less correct and the grammer is proper.

for singapore to become a truly globalised city, it is imperative that its citizens are able to speak proper english to communicate effectively with fellow english speakers from other parts of the world . one need not fake an accent when talking to americans, british or australians. so long as the pronounciation of words are correct and the grammatical structure sound, there should not be much difficulty in communicating.

however, the problem now is that people are not pronouncing words properly, not using proper grammer, and peppering their speech with mandarin, hokkien or malay words, hence compromising their ability to express themselves in proper english. in addition, sentences are punctuated needlessly with the ubiquitous "la", "leh", "lor", etc.... i find it grating to the ears especially when i hear it overseas. i mean...the question mark was invented for a reason. it is meant to be used, not to be substituted with some other singlish expression.

it would be sad if batches of students go through the rigorous education system here and come out not being able to command a decent standard of spoken english.

which brings me to the point about singlish. even though it exists in our community and is commonly used in the marketplace, hawker centres, among friends, it should just be accepted and not glorified or groomed to be our national identity or something to be proud of. singlish is a nicer sounding term for bad english. and thats what it really is. i'm not saying we should try to eradicate it. the problem now is that people are unable to code switch between singlish and proper english!

the worse part about trying to advocate the use of good english in this country is the small minded people who accuse you of "speaking with a potato in your mouth"

of course, taking away jobs from our local english teachers will not be the best thing to do. i guess the government could first start with hiring a couple of them, maybe one for each school. its not that cheap to bring them in anyway. apparently some advertisements have already been placed in the Guardian newspaper in the UK. in china, school children are being taught english by american and british teachers, and they have to learn the 2 different types of pronounciations. this certainly reflects the importance placed by the chinese government in creating a truly effectively bilingual population.

the winter holidays have gotten off to a slow start since getting back from Australia. apart from meeting up with old friends and chilling out at the usual familiar places, nothing exciting has been happening. its always nice to be back here though, the sense of familiarity, the cheap and good food, and best of all, mum has just decided to back paddle on her hardline stance against maids and hire a maid. so its really nice not having to cook, wash dishes or do laundry for a month!

we had a class party last night. qianyi, always being the kind and generous one, offered her place to host our reunion once again. jon brought his new gf and was pleasantly surprised by the little "gift" that teresa and i had for him. now, the scum has lost yet another valuable member.

joking around and teasing each other just brings back the memories of the good ol' times back in JC. haven't indulged in that for quite some time.

was just talking about Australia with my friend's mum and having travelled there for business pretty often, they doesn't like them all that much. at board meetings, she feels that they are not listening attentively just because it is a Chinese person speaking. it is only when they have finally decided to pay attention that they actually start to listen. i cannot help but agree with her views that they still tend to not view Asians in general in the same light. IMHO, they still tend to be rather judgemental about colour. such things are hard to explain in words, its just a subtle feeling you get while talking to some of them. its like when they see ur face they facial expression just tends to change. as if they are not used to seeing asian people or something.

racism definitely is a problem in Australia today, despite the white australia policy having been abolished for quite some time. the emnity against asian people still remains. in the past, during the gold rush era, the white miners were rather unhappy that the Chinese workers were taking away their jobs as they were willing to work harder and for less pay. this gave rise to the origins of the anti asian sentiments in australia. chinese workers were seen as "spoiling the market." it got so bad that companies which hired chinese workers were branded by the whites as traitors.

oh well...i guess such ugliness in a society is something that its inhabitants have to deal with. even though it exists, i think its important to not let it bother one too much. because if one walks around with the suspicion that australians are racist, it makes it difficult in day to day interactions and forging of potentially meaningful friendships.

having lived there for about a year and a half, i think dealing with these problems has made me stronger, and given me a deeper understanding of the pitfalls of their society. given a choice, i would rather study in the US but of course for medicine, that is not a very feasible option.