Native English Speaker?

I’ve heard educational institutes in Asia invite ‘native English speakers’ to their countries to teach English.

Well what is a native English speaker supposedly? People from England? Well the video below will certainly lead one to question the veracity of such a term.


20 Common Grammar Mistakes

Here are 20 common grammar mistakes made by people. These mistakes often concern minor confusions between similar words e.g. ‘if and ‘whether’, ‘since’ and ‘because’ often used interchangeably in speech and writing.

It may sound like an exercise of splitting hairs, but I think the differences are sufficiently meaningful for now until of course, the dictionary gets an update in future.

What you speak affects how you save

According to Yale University behavioral economist Keith Chen, the language you speak affects your spending and saving behavior.

“The act of savings is fundamentally about understanding that your future self – the person you’re saving for – is in some sense equivalent to your present self,” Prof Chen told the BBC’s Business Daily.

“If your language separates the future and the present in its grammar that seems to lead you to slightly disassociate the future from the present every time you speak.

“That effectively makes it harder for you to save.”

What do you think of his findings? And, what does it say for bilinguals like us in Singapore? 

Language (better late than never)

You have been speaking (or at least trying to) speak English for the past 14-15 years of your life and your current level of language proficiency is an accumulative reflection of that. Truth is, two short and intense years in a Junior College will not magically improve your language. What you can do, however,  is to  1.) minimize your mistakes, 2.) ensure clear and accurate expression and 3.) build up your vocabulary (both academic and general). 

In a valiant (and hopefully not futile) effort to address (1), this page will contain a list of common mistakes that you seriously need to avoid (for both my sanity and yours). I will continue to update it so do check back often.

Worshipping English

According to this BBC report, the Dalit (formerly untouchable) community is building a temple in Banka village to worship the Goddess of the English language, a deity they believe will help them climb up the social and economic ladder.

We know English, arguably the reigning global lingua franca, has helped serve as a tool of mobility for many but is erecting and consecrating a temple and a goddess in the name of English really necessary? Well Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit intellectual and activist, seems to think so. He claims:

“I cannot reach large masses of people. I do not have the infrastructure to provide English instruction to scores of people,” said Mr. Prasad. “If you say English is a goddess, worship it, then the message is much better.” (From this article)

What are your initial reactions to this news?

Why do you think they are doing this? (Consider context and culture)

English is the greatest solution to eradicating poverty. Do you agree?

Language and Dialect: Matter of Life and Death?

Source: AFP

I am currently undergoing a course on linguistics and our discussions on what constitutes a language or dialect particularly interested me. It seems they differ in two main aspects. Accordingly to socio-political contexts, languages are basically backed up by institution while dialects aren’t. This is the differentiation most people are familiar with. However in a linguistic sense, languages are not mutually intelligible while dialects/varieties are (i.e. under this differentiation, Cantonese and Hokkien would be languages and not dialects because speakers of each would not understand each other).

When we talk about language and power, looking at context is extremely important to get a real sense of how people go about defining what is a language and what is a dialect. Take Cantonese for example. In Singapore most of us know it as a dialect but if you were to ask someone in Hong Kong or Guangzhou the same question, you can expect a very different response. Whatever relegated Cantonese in Singapore to mere dialect status then? Well, to put it bluntly:  language policy.

If we then take a look at China now, we can see a somewhat similar trend taking place but with very different reactions. According to this AFP report, more than a 1000 protesters have gathered in Hong Kong and Guangzhou to rally against the Chinese government’s attempts at promoting the national Putonghua (i.e. Mandarin) over the local Cantonese language (or ‘dialect’, according to the Chinese government). It seems highly unlikely the Chinese authorities will go very far at suppressing Cantonese the way Singapore managed to do in the past. The reasons are manifold but I think a key difference is this: the Cantonese speakers up north firmly see it as their regional language and will do anything to see that it remains as so.

What do you understand to be a language or dialect?
Is Singlish a dialect?

What do you think is the future of dialects in Singapore? What is the future of Singlish?