Monday, January 4, 2016

The Speak Good English Movement Blunders Again.

It's amazing how Singapore's Speak Good English Movement can so shamelessly continue dishing out error after error to the people of Singapore. A more respectable movement would have called it quits after I exposed, in more than 50 posts on this blog, their embarrassing errors. Many of them are errors that even a school-going ten-year-old wouldn't have made. If you would like to see a list of their errors and links to all my blogposts on the subject, please click here.

I have visited the Movement's website a few times and I'm not surprised to see errors that are too numerous to blog about. But just this evening, I was minding my own business and looking at my own Facebook wall when something posted by the English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS) caught my attention. They re-shared what was originally posted by Singapore's Speak Good English Movement and ELIS wrote on their Facebook page, 'Very useful tips!'

I'm not sure if ELIS went through what the Movement posted in their Facebook site before giving their endorsement but I know enough about the Movement to know for sure that whatever they say is bound to contain some stupid error. You see, the Speak Good English Movement is just incapable of getting their grammar right. I have read through their grammar book which I've torn to shreds in my blogposts about their errors. See the previous link I gave if you are interested. I could not go through two pages of their grammar book without encountering at least one or two major errors. Singapore's Speak Good English Movement is just irredeemably hopeless and I was certain ELIS could not be right in saying that what they gave on their Facebook wall were useful tips. ELIS would do well to distance themselves from the Speak Good English Movement.

A cursory glance at what they posted is enough to tell me that there is at least one glaring error. Before going into it, I will explain more about some English words.

English is a highly versatile language and new words are coined every few seconds. Some are simply forgotten and others, possibly because of their usefulness or just aesthetic appeal, are repeated by others and used by writers and they become a part of the language. Shakespeare was known to have coined many words that we use today even if we may not know that it is to the Bard that we owe our gratitude.

The easiest way to coin new words is to make use of existing prefixes and suffixes and attach them to existing words. In the examples given by the Movement above, 4 of the words employ the prefix of repetition 're-'. While three of them are transitive verbs, one of them is not and that is where the clueless Speak Good English Movement trips up.

According to the Movement, 'I need to relook at my lesson plans' is wrong and it should be 'I need to relook my lesson plans'. Let's look at 'relook' more carefully. I suspect the Movement does not know what it really means and it has mistaken it for another word which is transitive. The definition for 'relook' given by all dictionaries is the same. Collins defines it as simply 'to look again'. So do other dubious online dictionaries which I normally wouldn't look at such as Wiktionary and the Urban Dictionary, the latter of which even gives by way of an example this sentence: 'You may want to relook at that problem.'

What is important to me is what Oxford has to say about this. After defining it as 'To look again', Oxford adds that it's a no-object verb. In other words, it's intransitive. That settles it. The Speak Good English Movement is wrong again, as always.

Oxford very helpfully gives the etymology of the words it defines and this word was first used as a verb in the writing of Fanny Burney who lived from 1752 to 1840. Longevity is not all she's blessed with; Burney is now immortalised as the originator of 'relook' as a verb'.

Unlike the Speak Good English Movement which is, as far as I'm concerned, totally illiterate and dumb, I am reasonably well-read and I'm familiar with Frances Burney's The Diary and Letters of Madame D' Arblay. I believe the exact moment when 'relook' was first placed on record in the history of the English language was when Burney wrote this in her Diary:
Yet we all stared, and looked and re-looked again and again, twenty times, ere we could believe our eyes.
What were they looking and re-looking at? They were looking at Sophy's tears. The silly girl could cry even without any provocation. The story is not important. What's important to us is just this - the person who's on record for having first used the word 'relook' as a verb used it intransitively and that is in line with the definitions of all English dictionaries today.


  1. Hi , i love reading your blog posts. I have a question: When do we use are given and when do we use were given? I've seen this: The students are given textbooks.

    1. Hi, thanks! There are various reasons why the simple present tense is used but from your question, I gather you are referring to the habitual present. If I am to build on your example, 'The students are given textbooks at the start of the year' best illustrates this. Contrast that with 'The students were given 'Star Wars' cinema tickets last week.'