“You see me no up”
Is Singlish a problem?
Singlish, Singapore’s brand of colloquial English, is accepted by some as an essential marker of Singaporean identity but deplored by others as a variety of English that puts Singapore and Singaporeans at a disadvantage because of its lack of international intelligibility. For this reason, it has been argued that Singaporeans cannot afford to maintain Singlish as a viable linguistic resource. A campaign known as the “Speak Good English Movement” was established in 2000 to counter the ill effects of Singlish through the promotion of Standard English. This paper addresses the Singlish-Standard (Singaporean) English debate in terms of discourse resources and the politics of language planning in Singapore. It may be true that Singlish is not the most internationally intelligible of Englishes, but what is more interesting is the considerable disparity between the official concern over international intelligibility and the reality of life in Singapore, especially for the Singlish speaker. Such a disparity suggests differing notions of what constitutes an important linguistic resource for the nation as a whole and for specific speech communities. On another level, it provides insights into the politics of language management in Singapore. The Singlish-Standard English debate also provides clear evidence of struggles over the determination of the choice of a preferred variety of English and the control over linguistic resources. Through an examination of media reports, official statements, and letters to local newspapers, the author considers the implications of this debate for Singaporeans (especially Singlish speakers) and their participation within the society. In the process, the author also examines the power relations that are intertwined in this debate for determining the ideal Singaporean society.
Cited by other publications
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