Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Speak Good English Movement blunders for the umpteenth time.

In my previous article, I castigated the Speak Good English Movement for saying on their website that "I am scared of the dark" was grammatically wrong. I showed in that article what utter nonsense they were spewing from their mouths. But I'm not yet done. In my earlier article on how pernicious the Movement is for the standard of English in Singapore, I examined the "LIST OF COMMON ENGLISH ERRORS IN EVERYDAY SITUATIONS" found on their website. In that article I dealt with the Movement's insane statement that "to put a child to sleep" could only mean euthanising him. I also stated in that blog article that there were many more errors in the Movement's list.

I will now deal with their third blunder in that list alone. Before I go on, I have to say something to put the Movement's errors in perspective. So far, all the Movement's errors that I have dealt with (and I'm talking about the dozens of articles I've written in this blog on their mistakes) are not errors they made because of carelessness. If a mistake is made in the course of one's writing and is due to carelessness, which is of course very common and quite pardonable for any writer, nobody would fault the Speak Good English Movement. Even the best writers slip up from time to time. However, the Movement's errors are errors made when they have given sufficient thought to a point of grammar. They must have thought about it or even looked up a grammar book or a dictionary before they made a bold statement that a word is incorrect or a sentence wrongly constructed. Their errors are errors that stem from their sheer ignorance of grammatical rules and proper English usage.  To put it bluntly, they are incompetent and are unfit to teach anyone the English language, far less to be the nation's English language watchdog.

According to the Speak Good English Movement, "to search for a missing document" is wrong. This is what they say in their list of common errors on their website.

What they mean is whenever the word "search" is used in a sentence, it must be followed by an object. In grammar, we call such a verb a transitive verb. To the Movement, "search" as a verb cannot be used intransitively. Hence, to them, you can search THE OFFICE for a missing document but you can't search for a missing document.

But everyone knows that's nonsense. Any good dictionary will tell you that "search" is also an intransitive verb. The Oxford English Dictionary places the intransitive use of "search" as its first definition. The examples provided by the dictionary are:

Hugh will be searching for the truth. 
His lax brown eyes scanned the conveyor belt carefully, searching for a black duffel bag. 
He mounted once more and began to trot among the trees, searching for the source of the noise.
The Cambridge Dictionary gives another example for the proper use of the verb "search":

I've been searching all day, but I can't find my ring anywhere.
I can pick examples from a dozen other dictionaries but I don't have to do that. All right-thinking, English-speaking people in Singapore and everywhere else on this planet know that it's perfectly correct to use "search" in this way. It's fine if the Speak Good English Movement just sits back and does nothing for Singapore. But they are causing immense harm by teaching Singapore students rules which  they have invented themselves and which conflict with the established rules of Standard English.

Who appointed the committee members of the Speak Good English Movement and on what criteria? It's not too late to undo the mistake - simply dissolve the Movement. Singaporeans are much better off without an organisation that seems hopelessly unable to get its English right.

If you would like to look at a list of all my articles on the errors of the Speak Good English Movement, MOE's language experts and other teachers of English, please visit my List of Grammar Terrorists.

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