Monday, March 3, 2014

The Blind Leading the Blind

I have said many times that the two grammar books written by English language experts from the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore are hilarious in that you can't go through a single page without noticing some glaring error that even a ten-year-old wouldn't make. Sometimes I don't find it all that funny. It's incredibly sad that the language experts from the MOE can be so ill-qualified, ignorant and incompetent in a subject which they claim to have expertise in. I feel sorry for the poor students who really want to learn good English grammar and is it really wrong of them to rely on experts from the Ministry? After all, the MOE employs all teachers in Singapore. If their language experts are so blatantly clueless about basic grammar, what guarantee do students have that their teachers who aren't even considered language experts by the MOE can get anything right?

I've said in previous posts in this blog (click here if you want a list of my previous posts in this blog on this matter) that one classical method employed by the MOE's English language experts is to go where the wind blows them. If a reader tells them they are wrong, they will change their opinion instantly and try to accommodate the view of the reader (never mind the fact that the reader knows nothing about the language or quotes from an unreliable book).

Here's a pic I took from page 2 of ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN written by the MOE's "panel of English language specialists", as the Acknowledgement page tells us. Yes, you don't have to go very far to spot a language mistake made by the experts. It's there on page 2 and just about every page thereafter.

The book uses a question-and-answer format. Newspaper readers ask questions on English grammar and usage and the experts give their answers. Sometimes, readers are not satisfied with the answer and they write in again on the same subject. This will be placed in an inset titled "YOUR SAY" and this is sometimes followed by the reply from the experts, also in an inset and titled "THE EXPERTS REPLY".

Here's a question from a reader who, like many people I know, has a great deal more confidence than knowledge. His question is more a cocksure statement of what he thinks is a legitimate usage rule. Faced with such overweening certainty, the MOE's panel of experts, as they have done in many other such instances, agree with the reader.

Not only do the experts agree with this mistaken reader, they venture to suggest that "pressurize" refers to atmospheric pressure and should not be used to mean "coerce" or "persuade".  This is clearly a case of the blind leading the blind. Next, comes a third blind man, a reader who claims to have been guided by a book that none of us has heard of and neither has, I daresay, any renowned grammarian.

Now, as I have shown from other examples in the book, the moment a reader claims to have the backing of some book (whatever the book may be and it doesn't even matter if the reader has misquoted the book), experts from the MOE will back down. Look at their reply.

So swiftly have they forgotten what they wrote a moment earlier, that "pressurize" should only refer to atmospheric pressure.

Here's a clear case of the blind leading the blind leading the blind. The reality is all of them including the language experts know nothing about English grammar and usage.

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

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