Singapore Right in Rebutting NYT Piece on Singlish

Singapore rarely takes media criticism in its stride. That has often made me think the government need not always be belligerent.

For once, though, I tend to agree with Singapore’s rebuttal of an op-ed piece in The New York Times that touched on how Singlish was thriving in the country. That despite the government taking every effort possible to promote standard English!

The New York Times published a rejoinder yesterday from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Press Secretary explaining the rationale behind encouraging Singaporeans to gain a mastery of standard English.

Piece and Riposte, Both Brilliant: It was no doubt a brilliant piece by Singaporean poet and literary critic Gwee Li Sui, pointing out that years of state efforts to quash Singlish have only made it flourish.

The official riposte, just as brilliant, argues: “Not everyone has a Ph.D. in English Literature like Mr. Gwee, who can code-switch effortlessly between Singlish and standard English, and extol the virtues of Singlish in an op-ed written in polished standard English.”

Singlish does not get my nod. But I think Dr Gwee has indeed got it right. I see Singlish being widely in use everywhere, including at multinational workplaces.

MNCs assume that they can pander to Singapore by embracing its linguistic identities – Singlish and Mandarin. I hope they do not make Singlish mandatory for jobs – an honour many have given to Mandarin! That is least likely as they know it won’t please the state!

Moreover, Singaporeans take pride in Singlish,  so I doubt the state campaign will succeed.

G Joslin Vethakumar

1 Comment

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One response to “Singapore Right in Rebutting NYT Piece on Singlish

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