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From Singlish to English

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Singlish is an essential part of Singapore’s culture. It’s not slang, it’s a dialect that has formed and become entwined with what it means to be a Singaporean. It’s important to understand that it is essential for a Singaporean to speak and know Singlish. But, at the same time it’s important to teach our children that Singlish and English are not the same thing. They will need to know English and when they need to use it for a successful school and professional career.

We all have different modes of speech. We speak differently to the different people in our lives. We change our tone, vocabulary and even grammar when we speak to our friends, colleagues, parents and clients. We often aren’t even aware that we are changing the way we speak, it just comes naturally.
We need to help our students and children reach that stage. We need them to be able to switch between English and Singlish when the need demands it.
Primary students struggle with this the most. They speak and hear Singlish all the time. So when they write tests and exams, they struggle, for example, to use the past tense or prepositions correctly, because they don’t use it everyday. Students who have learned the correct grammar are able to do grammar worksheets well, but struggle with remembering to use the correct grammar in compositions and orals.
If we want our children to use both English and Singlish, then we have to provide them with the ability to know the difference and to use the correct dialect at the correct time. It’s not easy, and it takes a concerted effort by parents and children and it takes consistency and practise.

Support Language Learning
In today’s competitive world, language learning often takes a back seat to those subjects deemed more financially viable, such as Math and Science. If parents want their children to be successful language learners they have to ensure that the language being studied is afforded the same respect as the aforementioned subjects. A child, who is led to believe that language learning is unimportant and secondary, will not be motivated to study language.

Parents Pass On Language Skills to Their Young Children
Parents are role models for their children in more than behaviour. A child’s first exposure to a language is through their parent and as a result many children for their opinion of language from their parents. This applies to both negative aspects of language learning as well as positive. Parents who support language learning and encourage their child to speak correctly will have a more positive impact on their child’s language ability than those who dismiss language learning and do not correct their child’s overuse of slang or incorrect grammar.

Find the Appropriate Program
Parents need to make sure that when they enrol their child in a language learning school or centre that they choose an appropriate program for their child. Don’t be misled by catch-phrases and brand names. Before you visit the centres, think about the goals you want to reach. If you want your child to learn the difference between English and Singlish, then make sure that the teachers do not speak Singlish.

Find an Effective Program
Once a parent has found an appropriate program for their child, they want to make sure that the program is effective in achieving the goal of language learning development. Any effective language-learning program needs to create the right learning environment. The teachers need to be well trained and familiar with the teaching materials, as well as being able to relate to the needs of their students. The use exciting and stimulating games and activities will keep students interested in the material and motivated to learn.

Communicate With the Teacher
The teacher, student and parents are all partners in the process of language learning. By speaking to the teacher a parent is able to raise concerns about their child’s language development, and similarly a teacher is able to provide detailed information on how well their child is performing within a classroom environment.

To enable a student to be able to switch between Singlish and English the student needs to consistently be surrounded by an environment that requires the use of both. If your child only immerses themselves in Singlish, then it will be a struggle for them to ‘turn on’ the English button. It’s up to us as parents and educators to surround our children by both worlds.


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