The reason why Singaporean English will never get good

April 2, 2008 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Being Me | 25 Comments

[rant alert]

Do you want to know why? It’s because even our newscasters and the the very broadcast stations use bad English. I’m not talking Phua Chu Kang which is funny and humorous and should be allowed to use Singlish. No. It’s the damnable Channel News Asia programs which are supposed to be all serious and should transmit more formal English that keep screwing up.

Today in Education Asia (ended at 5pm) I heard a word I didn’t quite catch. The narrator (Yasmine Cheng) pronounced it “a-da-jay.” It was used in this context: “As the old a-da-jay goes…” It took me a second to mentally check my vocabulary, and then I realized she meant adage. It’s pronounced “ad-age.” Go check the link to and click on the sound. What in the hell is “a-da-jay”? Even if it was Latin it would be Adagium, which is Ad-ag-ium.

So if you want to figure out why our English is so bad, it’s not Phua Chu Kang’s fault, it’s all those supposedly more serious programs that mispronounce words. It’s not some fancy foreign word. It’s English. Simple English. Pronounce it like English. A-da-jay does not make you sound more high class or professional, it makes you sound like a pretentious dicks. No wait. I take that back. I don’t mean to insult pretentious dicks. At least they use real foreign words like c’est la vie and what not, in their original pronunciation. Or just use Latin phrases correctly in every other sentence. No. I apologize to pretentious dicks out there. Singaporean broadcast journalism is in a class on its own. Lower than pretentious dick. You’re just out there. How much dumber can you get?

My advice to CNA if they really want to help English learners out there in Asia is to speak simple proper English. Use proper pronunciation. Pick American or British, but pick one and then pronounce it that way. Please. I beg you. Otherwise every idiot and susceptible goon is going to be using a-da-jay, which will really cause me to flip out. Then you can report on how many people I manage to get fired from your program unit [ed: he does not really mean it. he'll just go apeshit, that's all].

[end rant]


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  1. hahaha ad-a-jay.

    it’s the french e with the tilt ma..

    like in cafe, vongole.. etc…

    haha. funny.

  2. If it were a French program I can forgive them, since the entire thing was narrated in English, I expect it to be in English. Just like forte. In English it is for-tay, not the French one where the “e” is silent.

  3. On behalf of pretentious dicks everywhere, I accept your mea culpa.

  4. ya and since it was broadcast in Singapore so it must be allow to suck, agree? Lets suck together, we ain’t englishman so dont bother.

  5. But we speak English. Unless we want to go Singlish all the way (which I am fine), but then we need to define which Singlish. There are 3 levels of it. It’s kinda like other pidgin Englishes. There “market,” “common,” and “high.” High is pretty much English. Common is mostly English words with local grammar and vocabulary thrown in, while Street is basically every other language thrown in for good measure. See wiki for details. Haha…

  6. chill man. people are just doing their jobs. language is a living, evolving thing anyways.

    besides, if you wanna criticise others, just look at your own English standards first:

    “It’s because even our newscasters and the the very broadcast stations use bad English.”

    (2 x “the”)

    “it makes you sound like a pretentious dicks”

    (“a” cannot be used with plural form of nouns)

    “My advice to CNA if they really want to help English learners out there in Asia is to speak simple proper English.”

    (missing punctuations, commas after “CNA” and after “Asia”)

  7. Thanks chill out, but I don’t claim to be professional or broadcast to a wide audience. And I do not get paid for my speaking or writing skills. It’s not my living. Language is evolving, but it should not de-evolve. If the lady wanted to speak in Old French, I’d like to see more Old French in that program. Plus my editor sucks (ed: sorry).

  8. Neither did the newscaster claimed to be a good, not to mention, a perfect English speaker.

    Does professionalism include having perfect English? Is a newscaster ONLY paid for speaking/writing skills?

    Wait a sec, were you made to pay $ to watch CNA and that particular segment and therefore feel self-righteous enough to criticize?

    Why don’t you watch CNN or BBC instead then? Do you think they do not make mistakes?

    Cut some slack for people man.

    Who defines what is “de-evolution” of language – what is a real measure of quality of a language? By the number of speakers? By the semantics? By the grammar? There are about 1000 Arabic words which have been absorbed into the English language right now – do you consider it “de-evolution”?

    If Americans and British can pronounce “tomato”, “potato” and so many other words differently, is there anything wrong with another nation/group of people who decide to pronounce “adage” as “adajay”?

    Sincerely urge you to be fair-minded.

  9. I really doubt what you’re talking about is “The reason why Singaporean English will never get good”. Maybe you should have placed your [rant alert] in front of the title.

    Oh, and chill out :p

  10. sooty – haha i will take that into account

    chill out – yes i know that there are a lot of Arabic words in English by way of Spanish. I speak Arabic too. And I know that some words are no longer pronounced the same. In fact I do pay for CNA, it’s called the TV fee and tax. I actually pay taxes. It’s like the BBC. They are supported by public monies.

    In French the language is closely guarded by an academy. And in English (due to its free enterprise nature) the closest things we have are dictionaries. And neither in British or American English dictionaries is the word Adage pronounced that way.

    If my students pronounced it that way I cut them slack. If someone who is paid to read well does that, I am less inclined to be forgiving. I was raised strict when it comes to languages.

  11. then so should you have also been raised strict in being more forgiving and compassionate as well; moderating your dogmatic, puritanistic views.

  12. I am. But not to people who are paid to do a job. It’s pre-recorded. Even if a mistake was made the Editor could have caught it and did a retake. This is shoddy work. It’s not dogmatic or puritanical to expect professional standards from professionals. Again I don’t mind if my students or colleagues or the live news reader makes that mistake.

    Also you’ve moved from arguing points to attacking my character. That’s not a very good debating strategy.

  13. i’m not paid to debate professionally. :)

  14. No one is. Just trying to help. But that’s not the main point on why we disagree. So let’s not go down that road.

  15. my main point is that you are just being narrow-minded. and yes, i’m also being narrow-minded about you being narrow-minded. :)

  16. Ah well. Then we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  17. some things:

    1. are you condemning the entire singapore english broadcast industry just because yasmine cheng pronounced adage as a-da-jay?

    2. what, to you, is ‘simple proper english’?

    3. i think you misunderstood the wiki entry on singlish (i just took a look at it again).

    singlish is not made up of three different levels.

    it’s singapore english (another different thing altogether) that is made up of the three levels.

    (although yes, the name singlish is really singapore + english BUT singlish as a language/variety means colloquial singapore english.)

    it is the basilectal form of singapore english which is singlish.

    4. i think adage as ‘a-da-jay’ is not standard singapore english anyway.

  18. hi jun.. yeah thanks for pointing out my misunderstanding of Singlish and Singapore English.

    As for condemning them. Yes, I am. That’s because it’s not just her. It’s pre-recorded. So there are editors and a review process. Someone should have caught it. To be honest though, even the live ones are not exactly very good either in terms of pronouncing words. Although the quality is good, it’s not great.

    Simple proper English for me is English using simple words. No need for fancy words and big words. Sometimes plain speaking gets the point across.

    And it’s because “a-da-jay” is not standard Singlish or Singapore English that I’m peeved. It’s also not American or British. Now if it were French, that would be acceptable I suppose. I’m not a French speaker though, so I have no idea how that word is pronounced in French.

  19. She shops for all her clothes at that French shop, Target.

  20. Haha… Good one Mr M.

  21. Your argument is weak man. You come to a conclusion by just one pathetic example. Are you a Singaporean? because if you are…I believe you should read up more on formal logic (something which Singaporeans clearly lack). Anyway ironically I do quite agree with the spirit of your argument…although the way you portray it is so damn weak…

  22. 1. i don’t see how one mistake makes her a lousy English-speaker.

    2. yes, although you aren’t ‘doing English’ as a living, your own expectations of Singaporeans being capable of ‘simple, proper English’ would require you to be capable of ‘simple, proper English’ in your post. That you haven’t even accomplished that basic level, in my humble opinion, makes you unfit for such virulent criticism.

    3. your emotional outburst discredits you. you seem to be trying to sway your readers by use of extreme adjectives to your opinion.
    try putting in some real thought into your writing, please!

  23. why do we have to speak either american or british? that would be a very stupid thing to do.

    we are singaporeans. we speak in a singaporean accent. standard singapore english should have its place in the world.

  24. once again Singaporeans getting all heated up and defensive at their fucked up English standards. Singaporean standard? oh please, maybe you should record yourself speaking and listen to the recording of your own voice. You might be surprised on how incomprehensible your speech is. Bunch of butt hurt douchebags.

  25. Moreover, some Singaporeans (not small in numbers) understand the only way they used to express. There’re various ways of expression in English. But sometimes I was misunderstood having weird English due to my using different expressions which I’ve learnt from famous English literatures. If I am from USA, they would be OK but mine were misunderstood as I’m a Korean. I’m sure that some of them aren’t reading good books. English is used for communication, not for differentiation. Even among Americans I found better people in English who have read many books and well educated. I think if Singaporean differentiate themselves by language they should develop their own language (a kind of Chinese), not modified English.

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