Sunday, January 6, 2019

Should Singapore Schools Teach English Grammar?

Most people are not aware that English grammar is not taught in Singapore schools. Neither is it taught in any other school all over the world except those in Britain which recently re-introduced grammar in their curriculum because of the prudent educational policy of the Tory government. However, parents in Britain have staged huge protests against this. They don't want their kids to be taught grammar.

Many people don't realise that most English-speaking people are grammar illiterates. This has everything to do with the history of English teaching. In the 1960s, educators came up with the novel idea that English grammar was too difficult for children and it would take away their interest in creative writing. This idea soon spread to schools in all other parts of the world and children were taught how to communicate effectively and correctly in English but grammar itself was left out. However, it became clear a few years ago to educators in Britain that this was a huge mistake. We now have a whole generation of people who may be English-speaking but have no knowledge of English grammar at all. The government in the UK took the decision, even though it's an unpopular one, to re-introduce English grammar in all schools and make it essential for all 11-year-olds to sit an examination that tests their knowledge of grammar.

It was in this context that Nick Gibb, the UK education minister embarrassed himself when a BBC presenter asked him if 'after' in the sentence 'I went to the cinema after I'd eaten my dinner' was a preposition or a subordinating conjunction.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What Lucien Wong, Singapore's Attorney General, wrote

Many years ago, in the middle of work, my then secretary entered my room to ask me if 'organise' should be spelt with an 's' or a 'c', or at least that was what I thought I heard. I told her there was no 'c' in 'organise'. She repeated what she had said more carefully. 'Should "organise" be spelt with an "s" or a "zee"?' I asked her why she called it a 'zee'. All self-respecting citizens of this country were taught from the cradle to call a zed a zed. She eyed me as if I was a fossilised specimen from the Jurassic Period and said haughtily, 'That is so passé! Stylish people today call it "zee"'.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Section 377A - the slippery slope: a short musing

Everyone around me is now divided on whether Section 377A, an outmoded law which criminalises homosexual acts between consenting adults, should be repealed. Churches seem to be quite eager to see that homosexuals remain branded as criminals. While that may be the official stand of the National Council of Churches, individual Christians are very much divided on this issue.

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Recently, many newspapers all over the world reported the story of a retired school teacher who purportedly corrected Trump's language in his letter to her.  You may read the full story in USA Today which gives more details about this retired teacher that other newspapers have chosen not to reveal. First, the 'corrections' of the retired teacher Yvonne Mason appear more like the ravings of a hysterical woman.  What's amusing to me is Mason has not shown a single language error that Trump has made. We will examine what Mason says are errors made by Trump. We will then take a look at those who defend Mason and of course there are legions of them - anyone that takes a swipe at Trump is always supported by a massive cheer-leading team and the story is always blown up out of all proportion; CNN even gave Mason two interviews at prime time.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Singapore's Good English Award in Bad English

Singapore's Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) is currently asking school students to nominate their favourite English teachers for the Movement's 'Inspiring Teacher of English Award'. You would have thought that the least the SGEM could do was to ensure that their own Nomination Form for the Award was grammatically correct. How can the SGEM assess English teachers and give an award to the best English teacher when the whole world can see that it can't even churn out a few sentences that are free of grammatical errors?

You must be wondering how anyone can make grammatical errors in a Nomination Form which has mainly empty spaces for students to fill in. You underestimate the SGEM's propensity for making grammatical errors if you think it can't possibly trip up on a Nomination Form. At the start of the Nomination Form, there is an explanatory note consisting of only five or six sentences. Short though this explanatory note may be, you can be sure that if there is room in any bit of writing for grammatical errors to be made, the Speak Good English Movement is sure to make them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Fools or Liars?

A couple of months ago, I was seated by myself in my favourite restaurant eating my favourite meal when I overheard a conversation at the next table which was occupied by a small family consisting of a Brit (presumably so from his accent), his Asian wife and their young son of kindergarten-going age. The boy was eating fish and chips and he said very loudly, 'These are my all chips'. His father very swiftly corrected him, 'These are all my chips'.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Not another preschool ad!

Stuffed into my letter box recently was yet another preschool promotional flyer, this time by Learning Vision. What surprises me is Learning Vision takes in really young children - infants who are only two months old. What can one possibly teach a baby of that age? But whatever the preschool's ability may be in communicating with babies of such a tender age, I am tempted to think after having read the ad that perhaps it is less effective when communicating with parents.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Why the Merriam-Webster Dictionary should not appeal to you

In my last post in which I criticised the Speak Good English Movement for using the word 'collaterals' to mean 'books on grammar', a friend of mine informed me that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has this as one of its definitions: 'informational materials (such as brochures and fact sheets) used in selling a product or service to a prospective customer or buyer'. It may be a little far-fetched to extend that definition to 'grammar books'. Further, this preposterous definition is only found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and absolutely nowhere else, at least at the present time. And it's certainly not a definition accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) or the constantly updated Oxford Dictionary Online (ODO).

There are very good reasons why you should not consult the Merriam-Webster and I'm not talking about the reasons I gave in this blog post I published a few months ago: Don't buy a Webster's Dictionary! That blog post deals with what the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has to say about a small area in English usage which, as I have demonstrated, is incorrect. What I'm questioning in this article is Merriam-Webster Dictionary's lexicographical reliability. I'm not only talking about the dictionary's comment on usage. I'm going to the heart of the dictionary - lexicography itself.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement blunders again and again - PART 2

What I will show in this article is the similarity between Humpty Dumpty and Goh Eck Kheng, Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement. They both use a word to mean what they choose it to mean, even though the dictionary gives a totally different definition of the word and nobody else on this planet uses the word to mean what they choose it to mean.

At the start of Part 1 of this blog post, I briefly mentioned Goh's incorrect use of the word 'authenticity'. While scanning through the SGEM's website, I discovered another glaring misuse of a common enough word.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement blunders again and again - PART 1

In 2014, Mr Goh Eck Kheng, the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM), made a speech which was published on the SGEM's website. In the speech, Mr Goh used the word 'authenticity' without understanding its meaning. I posted a critical comment of this. Thereafter, there were no further publications of the Chairman's speeches or any other announcements under the heading 'Press Release' on the SGEM's website. I wanted to look for Mr Goh's speeches in 2015 and 2016 but they could not be found on the website. I was particularly interested in a conference the Movement held in 2015. That was the conference the Movement got even its title wrong. Can you imagine that? The Speak Good English Movement has such a poor command of the English language that it could not even get the title of its conference grammatically correct. Click here to read what I wrote about that Conference. Recently, I discovered that the SGEM is getting more confident and has published its Chairman's 2017 speech on its website. Surely after all that has happened the SGEM must get its act together to ensure that the speech contains no error? You don't even need to speak English to be able to publish a grammatically correct speech in English.  All you need to do is to get someone who speaks English well to write it for you. So, what do you think? The 2017 speech of the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement contains no grammatical errors? Is this too much to ask of the Speak Good English Movement?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Good Lord! It's the Pat's Schoolhouse ad again.

About a month and a half after I posted this blog article, I found in my letter box yet another ad from Pat's Schoolhouse. I was about to leave for the airport at the time and so I took a photo of it, stored the photo in my online album, forgot about it, had a good holiday although I had a fall while climbing a mountain, underwent medical treatment, recovered (to a degree) and this morning, as I was going through my online photos, I came across the photo I took almost three months ago and here it is:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Don't buy a Webster's Dictionary!

When I was about 7 years old, I went to a book shop to buy a dictionary. There were many dictionaries and I didn't know which one to choose. In the end I picked the one that had the most attractive and colourful jacket design. When I got home with my new purchase, my grandpa who was visiting us at the time told me that I had bought the 'wrong' dictionary. 'Avoid Webster like the plague', I was told.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mr Goh Chok Tong's Facebook post

Don't ask me anything about the family dispute. I was abroad when it happened and I just heard about it when I got home. A person's family dispute is a private matter and even if members of the family choose to air their quarrel online, I take no interest in it. But I'm more interested in how people express their thoughts in words. This afternoon, I saw this Facebook post by Goh Chok Tong, the former Prime Minister of Singapore:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pat's Schoolhouse keeps getting its grammar wrong

Those who follow my blog will recall that Pat's Schoolhouse sent me an ad just last month and I wrote about its flawed grammar here: Pat's Schoolhouse Again! I stressed 'again' in the title because in 2016, the school shoved a badly written advertising flyer into my letter box and I blogged about it in this post: An Ad by Pat's Schoolhouse. A couple of weeks ago, the school did it again - it got someone to stuff yet another promotional flyer into my letter box. And Pat's Schoolhouse which got its grammar wrong in two previous ads did it again. This is what it wrote in the ad:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Kamm-ouflaged Pedant - a review of Oliver Kamm's book on English usage.

There are three different kinds of people who write books on grammar and usage. The first consists of linguists and grammarians who have proper academic credentials in the study of language. The second group is extremely rare - writers who have absolutely no knowledge of grammar and I really mean zero knowledge. Most ignorant people aren't that shameless. Singapore's Speak Good English Movement is the only organisation I know that writes grammar books that are totally wrong and the people who shamelessly write them are clueless about English grammar as my recent review of their latest grammar book demonstrates. The third group that writes books on grammar and usage is made up of mainly journalists. Unlike the second group that knows nothing about grammar and cannot even construct grammatical sentences themselves or make an official speech without errors, these journalists usually have some working knowledge of grammar and they can write beautiful prose but this knowledge is too skimpy for them to write books on grammar and usage.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pat's Schoolhouse again!

Last year, I blogged about an error in Pat's Schoolhouse's advertisement. They wrote in their ad:
Pat's Schoolhouse provides a distinctly unique education for over 28 years...
As I explained in my blog post, the sentence should read: 'Pat's Schoolhouse has been providing a distinctly unique education for over 28 years...'

I've just received in my letter box Pat's Schoolhouse's 2017 ad and this time, the flyer looks even more attractive than their 2016 ad:

I am quite pleased to say that this time, they didn't use the simple present. The first sentence of their ad which contains only 3 sentences reads:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

LTA's illiterate poster

In response to my last post which includes a photo of an embarrassing poster by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), a reader posted this comment in a vigorous but futile attempt to defend LTA's indefensible blunder:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Why pick on shopping centres in Singapore?

Last week, the Straits Times published a photo of a poster found in a shopping centre in Singapore that contained grammatical errors:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Speak Good English Movement's new grammar book - PART 2

In this article, I will examine in greater detail one or two more of the many errors made in the new grammar book of Singapore's Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) called Grammar Rules. I will also perhaps take a peek into the thoughts of the writer or writers of this highly flawed grammar book. If you want to read PART 1 of this article, please click here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tense because of tenses.

In my previous post on the many errors in the new grammar book of the Speak Good English Movement, one Renfred Tay in a public Facebook posting objects to my use of the simple present tense 'give' in the first sentence below: