Sunday, February 23, 2014

Singapore's Language Experts - the Nation's Disgrace

Singapore is an amazing country. Despite being so small that you can't run a marathon in it in a straight line without hitting the sea, Singapore has shown itself in many respects to be superior to most other bigger countries, particularly in the arena of education where the PISA test results rank it the top in the world together with Taiwan, South Korea and China.

There is however an ugly spot on the face of its otherwise impeccable educational record. Singapore's English language experts (from both the Ministry of Education and the Speak Good English Movement) are an incredible disgrace to this nation which normally has a low tolerance for incompetence. Singapore's language experts are not just incompetent; they are totally ignorant of even the rudiments of English grammar but as I have shown in various posts in this blog, they go out of their way to misrepresent to the nation's trusting and ingenuous school children that they are experts in the language. What they do is insidious - they tell students who write perfectly grammatical sentences that they are wrong and they teach them to write what renowned grammarians condemn as wrong and ungrammatical. If you are interested in reading specific examples in my blog, I have a list of them here. Look under Heading No. 1 "TEACHERS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE". I will add to this list as I write more posts in this blog.

Through the collaboration of the Ministry of Education and the Speak Good English Movement, two grammar books were written called ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN and ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2. These two books are hugely popular in schools all over Singapore and they have gone through at least ten re-reprints each. I have examined both books and I have documented some of the errors in my blog and will continue to write more when I have the time. Almost every page of both books contains atrocious errors. The books are both so appallingly flawed that at one point, I really thought they were meant to be a parody of English grammar books. If there is a 50% chance of the language experts getting some very basic point in English correct, they will somehow get it all wrong. What I've written in the list provided above is only the tip of the iceberg. There are far too many mistakes in both books for anyone to attempt to correct them all. What's truly ironical is the fact that Singapore's language experts are more ignorant of basic grammar rules than the students they purport to teach. These books should properly be titled ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN BY SINGAPORE'S LANGUAGE EXPERTS.

I have shown in this blog many examples that will convince any reader that Singapore's language experts are really clueless about anything pertaining to English grammar. Here's one more taken from the book ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2. The book is in a question-and-answer format. It begins with a question posed by a reader of the Straits Times newspaper and it's immediately followed by the answer given by the language experts.

In this excerpt, a reader notices that the experts wrote in a previous article "as hot as them" instead of the more formally acceptable "as hot as they" and he questions the experts if they may have slipped up. Just read the experts' answer and if you will ignore the irritating arrogance which permeates the entire book, you will see how they try to worm their way out by adding one mistake on top of another.

Real grammarians (as opposed to Singapore's disgraceful nitwits who have the gall to call themselves language experts) say a different thing. "As hot as they" is generally considered preferable in formal settings but in daily conversations, "as hot as them" is commonly accepted. Burchfield says, "To escape censure, and also sometimes to avoid ambiguity, it is better in formal writing to adopt the style he is as clever as he/she/they". Robert Allen says the same thing. Grammarians are all agreed on this.

Singapore's sham experts say a different thing. They say it should be "as hot as them" and not "as hot as they" because in the sentence "Don't you wish your teacher is as hot as them?" them is the object! If that is so, all the real grammarians are wrong and so are all the great writers.

How can Singapore's language experts be so dead wrong in something as simple as identifying the subject and object in a simple sentence? How can one of the world's top-ranking educational giants be so crippled and helpless when it comes to basic English grammar? Let's not kid ourselves. Although Singapore has four official languages, English is the main language of the land. It's the language of the government, the courts, schools and just about every single institution here. The fact that Singapore's English language experts don't even know the rudiments of English grammar is certainly a disgrace to a country which prides itself on being correct in almost everything you can think of. Singapore usually fixes instantly anything that's broken and has no qualms about getting rid of things that don't work. Why the Ministry of Education has done nothing about its language experts is totally incomprehensible to me. Any competent Education Ministry would have sent Singapore's language experts to the stocks and pillory years ago and removed their appalling books from the book shops and incinerated them.

You may wonder if I have anything personal against Singapore's language experts from the Ministry of Education. The truth is I do not even know who they are. I'm however totally repulsed by the shamelessness of a group of people who are not just totally ignorant of even the most basic rule of grammar but have the effrontery to misrepresent themselves as experts when they are in truth no better than a troop of chattering gibbons. At least gibbons don't teach students what's clearly wrong.

For a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists, click on this. Please note that this list of grammar terrorists will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

No comments:

Post a Comment