Taiwan Celebrities on Singlish

I don’t know why there are so many Singaporeans crying foul over this video. After viewing it, I thought it was fair comment. If these celebrities think our English sucks and theirs is better, so be it – they are entitled to hold their own beliefs, however flawed it might be.

Equally derogatory: there are many Singapore variety shows I have seen making fun of the way Indian and Chinese nationals speak English. The latest movie by Jack Neo, Ah Long Pte Ltd also poked fun of Malaysian accented English.

These are all entertainment programs pandering to local tastes – cut them some slack lah… they are not public service announcement. If Chen Shui Bian was the one on the program criticising our English, that’s another issue altogether.

While we are quick to criticise, we are also slow to introspect.

The way I see it, there’s no such thing as “pure English”. Yes, seriously. Not even in it’s supposedly country of origin, England.

English is used widely across the world as a universal working language. As a result, many pidgin forms will evolve when it is used in mixture with native languages, requiring constant code switching.

It is this reason that the Singapore government will never be able to eradicate Singlish; despite the millions spent on the Speak Good English Campaign all these years.

Anyway, Arroy Shen and the Taiwan English teacher whom had bear the brunt of the criticism from angry Singaporeans have both apologised on their blog. You can read it yourself on their blogs:

Arroy Shen

Taiwan English teacher, Ruby  

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11 comments
  1. It might seem a little contradictory when my last blog post is a rant about my pet peeve when people do not pronounce Malay words properly, but I agree with you, I don’t really think of the video clip as much of a big deal.

    Because different people are influenced by the way that they talk usually regionally. English definitely sounds different according to the different countries that one goes to.

    But when the person completely bastardize the language is when it becomes an issue to me.

    Like pronoucing the French word lingerie as LING-GHER-RIE …

    Oh dear

  2. Can’t really believe the number of comments that I see on Arroy’s page…. I’m wondering why many of these people can’t really take these sort of things in a light hearted manner…

  3. I’m a Taiwanese who was grown up in Singapore, having migrated to Singapore since young.

    Criticism of the way Singaporeans speak is not something new. In fact, Singaporeans had been criticized for not being able to speak proper english or even proper chinese.

    The reason why Singaporeans do not speak proper English (Singlish in fact) is because Singapore’s English lessons do not teach students about phonetics, i.e. the proper way of pronouncing the English word based on native American/British pronunciation. It’s the equivalent of pinyin in Mandarin, which assist one in more proper pronunciation. Pinyin is widely taught in Mandarin classes in Singapore, but phonetics are not taught in English classes. I wonder why.

    1. First off, I speak both English and Mandarin Chinese well enough to hold a spontaneous conversation without mixing languages. I can also speak singlish if i want to. In my opinion, Singaporeans do not have to be ashamed of singlish. Singaporeans come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. Naturally, that’s what happens when people come together to form a common language. It’s pretty commendable that despite the language differences, Singaporean is able to complement each other and overcome the odds. This is a complex country.

      In contrast, ethnic Chinese in Taiwan are immigrants who has basically eroded the aboriginal cultures and recently, commercialised it to boast its diversity. Matter of fact remains that they aren’t very well-represented in society.

  4. I’m a Japanese who has lived in Taiwan and Singapore. I had no problems understanding the Taiwanese when they spoke English but I did not understand the Singapore English. I thought this was not a big deal since English is not their native language. The strange thing is that when I spoke mandarin to Singaporeans, I discovered that many of them have a poor command of mandarin as well. I speak mandarin as a second language. Why do most Singaporeans have a poor command of both Chinese and English? Why do the Chinese in Singapore speak English to one another? In Japan, no Japanese will speak to another Japanese in any language other than Japanese. I’m proud to be Japanese and I say to Singaporeans: Be proud to be Chinese!

    1. First off, I speak both English and Mandarin Chinese well enough to hold a spontaneous conversation without mixing languages. I can also speak Singlish if I want to.

      I’d say, look deeper my friend. 70% chinese doesn’t mean Singapore is a chinese society. That means out of 5, 2 are non-chinese. There are 4 official languages and more than 20 spoken languages in this tiny island. A choice to speak in any of the 4 doesn’t mean we’re not proud to be Chinese.

      People who are quick to judge are usually the most ignorant.

  5. i encounter the same situation , am sure that person from taiwan or mainland china their english pronunciation is a lot better than singaporean. I live in singapore now, when i first come, i wondering is this english? it is really weird.

    1. First off, I speak both English and Mandarin Chinese well enough to hold a spontaneous conversation without mixing languages. I can also speak singlish if i want to. In my opinion, Singaporeans do not have to be ashamed of singlish. Singaporeans come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. Naturally, that’s what happens when people come together to form a common language. It’s pretty commendable that despite the language differences, Singaporean is able to complement each other and overcome the odds. This is a complex country.

      In contrast, ethnic Chinese in Taiwan are immigrants who has basically eroded the aboriginal cultures and recently, commercialised it to boast its diversity. Matter of fact remains that they aren’t very well-represented in society.

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