Singlish used by those who “missed the opportunity to master proper English”: Some elitist on ST Forum

Singaporean elitism rears its pompous head again in public via one of its usual platforms — a letter published on The Straits Times’ Forum.

Referencing the recent debacle over the usage of the country’s unique patois on the signages inside the new three-doored public buses, someone harrumphed extreme displeasure while simultaneously reeking of elitist sentiments. Not to mention the fact that the person got Singlish all wrong, too.

Singlish elitist
Photo: ST Forum screengrab

Let’s tear down some of the insulting assumptions:

  • Sure, some folks who aren’t that capable of speaking English will have to rely on colloquialism to communicate with others — but it’s presumptuous to believe that Singlish is used by those who can’t speak “proper English”. In fact, so many of us utilize Singlish when with friends and family, but we certainly use proper English in professional environments.
  • Singlish is not “essentially English with Chinese syntax”. The arrangement of words and phrases in Singlish isn’t limited to just the Chinese language. In case you forgot, our creole language is also rooted in Malay and Indian culture, too.
  • Nobody is intentionally promoting Singlish. Like it or not, Singlish already is a constant (if not essential) part of local life here. Except ivory towers, perhaps.
  • “We can tolerate it but we should not feel proud about it. In fact, it should be avoided, where possible.” Sure, try speaking only the Queen’s English to elder uncles and aunties. There’s really nothing wrong with communicating in a common lingual standard to understand each other more effectively, not to mention build rapport and lessen the formalities. There’s really nothing wrong in feeling proud about Singlish either — it’s one of the few genuinely original cultural elements of Singapore (and an identity we can all hold on to!) that’s fading out due to relentless government action.

Here, we’ll let others speak out against the forum writer’s elitist insolence:

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