Friday, December 29, 2017

The Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement blunders again and again - PART 1

In 2014, Mr Goh Eck Kheng, the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM), made a speech which was published on the SGEM's website. In the speech, Mr Goh used the word 'authenticity' without understanding its meaning. I posted a critical comment of this. Thereafter, there were no further publications of the Chairman's speeches or any other announcements under the heading 'Press Release' on the SGEM's website. I wanted to look for Mr Goh's speeches in 2015 and 2016 but they could not be found on the website. I was particularly interested in a conference the Movement held in 2015. That was the conference the Movement got even its title wrong. Can you imagine that? The Speak Good English Movement has such a poor command of the English language that it could not even get the title of its conference grammatically correct. Click here to read what I wrote about that Conference. Recently, I discovered that the SGEM is getting more confident and has published its Chairman's 2017 speech on its website. Surely after all that has happened the SGEM must get its act together to ensure that the speech contains no error? You don't even need to speak English to be able to publish a grammatically correct speech in English.  All you need to do is to get someone who speaks English well to write it for you. So, what do you think? The 2017 speech of the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement contains no grammatical errors? Is this too much to ask of the Speak Good English Movement?

Yes, it is too much. I have already stated elsewhere on this blog that the Speak Good English Movement is incapable of getting its grammar right. The SGEM published its first book on English grammar, ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN, in 2007 which was a resounding success in terms of sales. In 2008, it published ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN PART 2 with equal success. Both books have been reprinted more than 10 times and they both top the bestseller list every year in all Singapore schools.

Elsewhere on this blog, I have shown that both books contain outrageous errors on grammar on almost every page and I'm not exaggerating. Please see the link below for all my blog posts on the errors of the Speak Good English Movement including a mountain of errors contained in these two books. Students in Singapore have for the past ten years been guided by these books of the SGEM and the Ministry of Education does nothing to stop this outrage. What is worse, these books are endorsed by the Ministry which prints its name and logo on the back covers of these books.

This year, the Speak Good English Movement again published its grammar book called Grammar Rules.

This time, the book is not sold but is made available to the public for free. At least, the SGEM has the decency not to sell utter garbage. 10,000 copies have been snapped up by the public in Singapore which is obviously hungry for tips on English grammar.  Sadly, many are unaware that Grammar Rules contains so many errors that anyone who knows some grammar is sure to conclude as I did in my earlier blogpost that the book is nothing more than 'a hotchpotch of different sources brought together, altered and edited by a confused panel that knows nothing about English grammar.' If you want to read my review of the SGEM's 2017 book Grammar Rules, please click here and follow the link to Part 2 of my review. I had intended to write more blog posts on the innumerable mistakes in the book but I got tired of doing this thankless task.

Let us now look at Mr Goh Eck Kheng's 2017 speech as published on the SGEM's website. You may click here for the full speech which is really quite short. In his speech, Mr Goh Eck Kheng talks about how English took root in Singapore. He then feels the need to praise his former school, the Anglo-Chinese School in a paragraph that was the only one that piqued my interest. Mr Goh no doubt considers himself a good example of what a recipient of ACS education would be like. All I can say is his pride in his alma mater is sadly misplaced. ACS is a school that can't even get its anthem right. If you are in the mood for a bit of fun and laughter, you may want to read a lighthearted blog post I wrote about the ACS anthem by clicking here.

Every time I read one of Mr Goh's speeches, I get this uncomfortable feeling that there are about a dozen ways each sentence of his can be rephrased to sound more natural, more appropriate and more elegant and I know I'm not the only one with this complaint. To me, the speeches of the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement are as un-chairman-like as President Trump's speeches are un-Presidential. But if my complaint is confined merely to a question of style, I will have no cause to go on. You can't criticise a person just because he is in your opinion stylistically inept. He has to be worse than that. He has to flout the simple rules of grammar. He's got to use words incorrectly. The Chairman of the SGEM is guilty of all that. But although I have to pick on individual errors to show the cancer that afflicts the SGEM, my intention is not to single him out. What I hope to show in this blog post is that the speeches of the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement are consistent with the overall tenor of the Movement's approach to language. In my previous blog posts, I have demonstrated that the Movement repeatedly gets its grammar wrong.

Let's look more closely at the paragraph of Mr Goh's speech that caught my interest:

Of course it is historically not true that ACS was founded to help English speakers speak better and it tells me a lot about the school when Mr Goh, a former student of the school, can't even boast about the language teaching in his school without getting his own language wrong.  Any child from a primary school that isn't ACS will tell you that 'the circumstances of its founding' must be followed by a plural verb so that Mr Goh Eck Kheng's sentence should read 'The circumstances of its founding also show...'. Before you charitably conclude that this is but a careless mistake on the part of Mr Goh since every child in Singapore is taught grammatical concord in the first two years of primary school, I will present incontrovertible evidence that this strange inability to come to grips with grammatical concord is very much a chronic disease that the SGEM has shown itself to suffer from. I will show how the Speak Good English Movement has repeatedly made this same mistake from 2007 to 2017 even when the Movement has given the matter some thought and it can't avail itself of the excuse of carelessness. It is important to bear in mind that although I will be limiting my observation only to mistakes related to grammatical concord, the Movement's errors are far more extensive and grammatical concord is just one of the many areas of grammar that the Movement has absolutely no knowledge of.


The SGEM has a long history of making countless grammatical errors. I'm not referring to errors made in the course of constructing a sentence. Such a mistake can very well be due to carelessness. I'm talking about a situation in which the SGEM considers a question on grammar, gives its considered opinion and gets it wrong. I will just give five examples of the SGEM's errors on concord that span a period of 10 years - from 2007 when it published its first book on grammar to this year (2017) when it published its latest book on grammar, Grammar Rules.


Confusion over the use of 'premises'. Is it plural or singular? The SGEM is clueless.

This is taken from one of the SGEM's 2007 / 2008 books on grammar. The format in both books takes the form of questions from the public followed by answers from the 'language experts'. For a more comprehensive examination of this particular error, please see my previous blog post: MOE's Joke Book.


Those who have never done clause-parsing exercises are usually stumped when they get a slightly more complex sentence. Should the verb be plural or singular? Of course the SGEM is sure to get it wrong. Let's not even talk about clause-parsing exercises; the SGEM's knowledge of grammar is zilch.

Again, this is taken from one of the SGEM's 2007 / 2008 books. If you want to read a more detailed examination of this problem, please see my previous blog post:  Confusion over concord.


Two years ago, the SGEM held a conference on grammar. The title of its conference is clearly printed on the front cover of its conference bulletin and on a huge board at the centre of the stage:

Communications - Keep It Simple and Clear

In 'Communications - Keep it simple and clear', what does the personal pronoun 'it' refer to? This is a clear example of the SGEM's perennial confusion over plurality.  You may read more about this in my earlier blog article on this error the SGEM makes: They can't even get the title of their conference right.


The most shocking error on concord that the SGEM has made is what appears in one of its 2007 / 2008 books on grammar:

The answer is so outrageously wrong that I don't believe any child in Singapore can possibly make the same mistake as the SGEM. If you want to read more about this error, please see my earlier blog post: AND THE TWO SHALL BE ONE .


But if you think the SGEM has learnt from its mistakes, brace yourself for a rude shock.

This is what the SGEM says in its latest book Grammar Rules published this year:

When I first read this, I couldn't understand why anyone would be so mad as to insist on the plurality of the subjects that are connected by the coordinator and. This is at odds with English grammar throughout its entire history from the time Beowulf was written to the present. As I thought about it, the truth suddenly dawned on me. You see, the SGEM is totally and consistently ignorant of even the most basic rules of English grammar.  By insisting on the plurality of the subjects connected by and, the SGEM is effectively affirming what it wrote 10 years ago in its first grammar book that Alan and George works as a team is acceptable.  To the SGEM, it is only when each of the two subjects joined by and is plural that you should use a plural verb. Hence, 'The boys and the girls work as a team' is all right but it will say that 'Alan and George works as a team' is acceptable. I need scarcely repeat that this is absolutely wrong but at least I hope it is now apparent to you why the SGEM insists that each subject joined by and has to be plural before the plural verb is used. For a more complete analysis of this particular error in the SGEM's 2017 grammar book, please read my earlier blog article: The Speak Good English Movement's new grammar book.

Mr Goh Eck Kheng's grammatical error is not a careless oversight by the printer when the speech was published on the SGEM's website. It's an error that is perfectly consistent with the SGEM's abysmal ignorance of basic English grammar rules. I will deal with other errors by the Chairman of the SGEM in my next blog post but here's further proof that flouting the rules of grammatical concord is second nature to the Speak Good English Movement:

This is taken from the SGEM's Facebook post in February 2016.  I'm normally reluctant to bring up an error that is not a point the SGEM has considered before giving its wrong opinion but I just want to illustrate from this Facebook post that English grammar is certainly not what the Speak Good English Movement is at home with.

As I have said earlier, the SGEM's errors are not limited to grammatical concord. Since I'm on the subject of the Chairman's errors, I will next talk about another common error that seems to afflict only those in the Speak Good English Movement. I will, in particular, concentrate on the Chairman himself but in order that I may show how pervasive the problem is among the folks at the SGEM, I will talk about one other member of the SGEM. All that and more will be in my next blog post, The Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement blunders again and again - Part 2.

For a list of some of the mistakes made by the Speak Good English Movement, please see in particular Section 1 A on this page

No comments:

Post a Comment