A poet’s commentary on Singlish in the New York Times (NYT), published on May 13, discussed “how the government’s war on Singlish was doomed from the start”, adding that the “years of state efforts to quash Singlish have only made it flourish”.
This prompted the press secretary to our Prime Minister to write a clarification to NYT stating that Standard English, not Singlish, is the way to go for Singapore.
What can we say? How can we react? Perhaps only in the way Singaporeans know how:
To Dr Gwee Li Sui:
You make the press secretary have to write letter to ang moh newspaper. Rabz man.
At the fact we actually wrote in to NYT to explain our stance on Singlish:
Before the letter, the discussion and buzz surrounding Gwee’s commentary and pointing out “Mee siam mai hum” was not exactly super viral on social media.
But after the short and succinct letter from the press secretary, everybody is asking if politicians without PhDs are qualified enough to use Singlish. Talk about the Streisand effect.
How some people reacted following the online backlash in response to the letter:
Singaporeans reacting to this line – “Using Singlish will make it harder for Singaporeans to learn and use standard English”:
Singlish is so close to Singaporeans’ heart. Was the establishment expecting a friendly response?
Singaporeans at the prospect of using only Standard English to communicate:
Ok ok, we don’t think the press secretary was trying to quash Singlish. Perhaps she was trying to clarify on behalf of the PM, who was mentioned twice in the NYT.
What else can the Gahmen do though?
It has to lead by example to ensure that the nightmare scenario where Singlish evolves to the point it is wholly unintelligible to regular English speakers does not become reality.
Or maybe it is trying to encourage more Singaporeans to read a good English paper like the NYT.