It would seem like ‘Singlish’ is catching fire too fast in modern society, especially for Singapore. It has become such a phenomenon that many have chosen to converse in the very mixed language, instead of regular conversational English. Therefore, Singaporean drag queen Kumar has been appointed to give its people grammar lessons, for fear that their weak language skills could dent its reputation as a business hub.
‘Singlish’, a common Singaporean and even Malaysian loose conversational language, is a mixture of English, Malay and Chinese and it is typically described as ‘broken English’, even though it is now an almost essential part of our culture.
“We speak English much better than our neighbours and that’s one reason why people like to come here. But we have become overconfident about our position,” said Adrian Tan, a lawyer and committee member of the Speak Good English Movement.
“One day, people in China will speak better English than us, and then we’ll be in trouble,” he said.
The Speak Good English Movement launched a campaign to encourage better usage, enlisting comedian Kumar to act as ‘The Queen of Grammar’ in a series of videos berating subjects’ use of the language.
You can watch a video of it here:
Despite the peculiar choice of a Victorian or Shakespearean inspired get up, Kumar demonstrates examples of modern conversational English, rather than the more flowery English used in the olden days.
While Singaporeans in the central business district speak mostly standard English in order to be understood by foreigners, Singlish is still the main dialect in use across the rest of the island, and many nationals object to being told how to speak. This also applies to their neighbours, the Malaysians and Indonesians.
Though the campaign starring Kumar is humorous and educational, we might have a longer way to go if we want to make our conversational English a little less jumbled up.