Saturday, November 14, 2015

How to Excel in English at PSLE and Beyond - Rule 2, Example 2

Towards the end of How to Excel in English at PSLE and Beyond - Rule 2, Example 1, I mentioned a very simple sentence,  'Alan and George work / works as a team'. If I tell you that the Speak Good English Movement is unable to get this sentence right, you probably won't believe me.

Here is a shot I took of the page from the Speak Good English Movement's book aptly titled, English as it is Broken.

This is what the Speak Good English Movement teaches in its grammar book. To them, the plural verb work is not the only correct answer but the singular verb works 'is acceptable' as long as you look at both Alan and George as a team. Using the plural verb is not mandatory but it's only 'easier for your listeners'. And they liken 'Alan and George' to 'bread and butter' and 'fish and chips'! I dealt with this error at greater length in a previous blog post

I hope you can understand my despair when I try to correct the grammar of the Speak Good English Movement. It's so bad that I usually don't know where to begin.

If you see such a book in the hands of your child or if he or she has a teacher who is as ignorant of basic grammar as this grammar book is, there is only one course of action you should take. Discard the book and dismiss the teacher. If you don't, you can forget about your child scoring an A-star in English at the PSLE. He'll be lucky if he even passes the paper. This is a fundamental rule that you must observe without compromise.

The Speak Good English Movement is notorious for not understanding the rules on basic grammatical concord. They have made many other such mistakes in their book alone. I'm reminded of a blog post I once wrote that shows their startling lack of knowledge of this aspect of grammar

If I still haven't convinced you that the Speak Good English Movement's knowledge of English grammar is no greater than your knowledge of Inuit grammar and your children should never be allowed to look at their grammar book or visit their website, I'll drop one more bombshell - they can't even get simple tenses right. You are probably saying to yourself, 'Surely the Movement can't possibly be ignorant of simple tenses? That's as basic as you can get!' My reply to you is simply - read on.

1. The Speak Good English Movement and the present perfect tense.

In the same grammar book, there is a question asked by the public as to when you may use the following sentences:
1. I had written to my friend.
2. I have written to my friend.
Since I'm on the topic of the present perfect tense, I'll focus only on sentence No. 2. Here is the answer given in the grammar book:
Situation 2 is called the present perfect tense. It's used to describe events that occurred at a non-specific time in the past and continues into the present. For example, I have written my friend (in the past) a letter a day since she left (you are still writing even now).
They are asked how the sentence 'I have written to my friend' may be used and their reply is when the present perfect is used, you are still writing the letter even now! It's obvious they have no clue what the present perfect is all about and the example they give is not only totally different from the question asked, it's ungrammatical! It's obvious they have not the foggiest when sentence No. 2 should be used and so they changed the sample sentence drastically and in the process, their entire sentence is ungrammatical.

2. The Speak Good English Movement and the past perfect tense.

In the same grammar book, the Speak Good English Movement is asked whether a sentence containing the past perfect tense is used correctly.

I cannot believe anyone who has even a sketchy knowledge of English tenses would possibly write the answer above. That answer is enough to support my assertion that the Speak Good English Movement clearly does not know anything about the past perfect tense. I hope you can now see how justified I am when I say that the Speak Good English Movement has major problems with their tenses and they find it impossible to give simple examples of the use of the present perfect and the past perfect without making grammatical mistakes themselves.

Perhaps you think that the Movement has taken steps to brush up its grammar and it's not as bad as it used to be when the grammar book was written? Sadly, that's not the case. Just last year, the Movement posted on their website their List of Partner Programmes 2014.  This is what they wrote for one of their partners:

After all these years, they still don't know how to use the present perfect tense correctly.

I hope you are now convinced that you must write the Speak Good English Movement off if you are serious about helping your children do well in their exams. Let me be fair to the Speak Good English Movement. Its members are, I believe, wonderful people who genuinely want to help Singaporeans speak and write better English. But alas, they are not equal to the task. Their ignorance of basic English grammar is astounding. If my kids had in their earlier years been at all influenced by the books and website of the Movement, I very much doubt if they could have even come close to an A-star in their PSLE English. Parents must do all they can to ward off the pernicious influence that the Movement may have on their children.  Because the Speak Good English Movement has the support of the Ministry of Education, they cast a wide influence over all our schools. You don't have to be antagonistic. Just go through the books and stationery. While the Movement may not have much knowledge of English grammar, they are certainly quite resourceful in other ways and they may distribute colourful stickers and stationery which are perfectly fine except that if there are words on them, you should read through everything carefully and if there are grammatical errors, you should bring them to your children's attention. A pencil that has on it the sentence 'Alan and George works as a team' is still a good pencil. I've seen Japanese stationery with meaningless words. I once saw on a Japanese pencil box the words (and I kid you not) 'Smile are the heart of flower'. It was quite a good pencil box too, I'm sure. As long as your children think of the Speak Good English Movement as nothing more than a stationery provider  like a Japanese stationery manufacturer, they should be fine.

It is obscene to let the Movement continue to ruin the nation's command of the language. They may be a source of amusement to us but think of the harm they cause to students who may not know better and may actually defer to their opinion. There are clear instances of such harm done to students in their grammar book which I will talk about in my subsequent posts.

But right now, I have to proceed with How to Excel in English at PSLE and Beyond - Rule 3, Example 1 (under construction). In this post, I will explain what you should do when you encounter a seemingly convoluted grammar rule cited by a teacher or a book but you have this niggling suspicion that it's all bunkum. How can you tell that the rule is made up by the teacher and there really is no such rule in English grammar? For a change, I will leave the Movement's grammar book for the moment and pick an example from the English language blog of Ludwig Tan, the Vice-Dean of the School of Arts & Social Sciences at SIM University and, I believe, a consultant or former consultant to (surprise! surprise!) the Speak Good English Movement.

If you want a summary of all the articles I've written in this blog about the ridiculous language errors of the Speak Good English Movement and others, visit my one-page blog post that has the links to all these articles neatly categorised.

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