Speak up

Should Singapore hire native speakers to help us all speak good English? Yes, we know—many pedants insist it should be “speak English well.” But we say: If you can say “that’s bad English,” you can say “that’s good English.” Anyhow, back to the topic.Whether someone born in certain countries is therefore a native speaker, whether someone who has spoken just one language since birth (who speaks from birth?) is therefore a native speaker, whether someone with some paper in language teaching is therefore a native speaker, the first and fundamental question is: Do the reluctant students need to learn the language?We are told we need to speak “proper” English to transact international business. The world has been trading for eons—with the help of translators. Of course, it’s best to speak the language oneself. But how many actually need to transact international business? Not a lot. Many people in Singapore live their entire lives in the heartlands, quite contentedly. For them, pasar English will do fine, thank you.We are also told that “Huayu is cool” (incidentally: “cool” is not a “proper” English word, and a two-language hybrid sentence is not cool), again to transact international business—with China. Again, how many actually need to do this? Again, not a lot.Now, we discover that senior citizens are helping youngsters learn—wait for it—Chinese dialects! This is because many youngsters (speaking “proper” Mandarin) who volunteer at old folks’ homes cannot communicate with the residents—who understand only dialects. So what were so unceremoniously abolished from Singapore decades ago in the name of Chinese linguistic homogeneity is now being rehabilitated in the name of charity and altruism. Ah, we need dialects.The latest surprise: A well known school in Singapore wants to start an international school which will offer—wait for it—other European languages! Why? So students won’t be “disadvantaged” against those from European schools. Did anyone even whisper “transact international business with Europe?”What’s next? Will someone start a special school to teach Singlish to expatriates who come to work and live here? Surely there is a need for them to learn our de facto national language? Here’s the best part: Singapore is just filled with native speakers!