Speaking English well

Speaking English well is not about having a native anglophone accent, e.g. Received Pronunciation and General American; but everything to do with clarity, diction and pronunciation. Think of stage actor Brendon Fernandez, television comic actor Chua En Lai, PM Lee Hsien Loong and his late father, newsreader Jill Neubronner, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and opposition politician Dr Chee Soon Juan, among others. All of them speak English well and with a Singaporean accent.

When my son performed in the showcase by the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir that featured local conductor Darius Lim, the emcee for that event apparently tried to speak in a rhotic pseudo-American accent but committed several pronunciation errors that I could not help but wince. I am certain that there were English language teachers among the audience who thought the same way.

American imperialism of the linguistic kind

After chatting with a few middle-aged women in a Singaporean tone at the cooking booth, the man strode to the stage, wielding a microphone, and babbled in a grating pseudo-American twang about some freebies to be given away.

Is there a contagion of oral Americanisation among our local comperes and radio DJs?

Most Americans who work in Singapore for some time do not return to the US with a Singaporean accent.

Most Singaporeans who work in India, even for close to twenty years, do not come back sounding as an Indian.

So why do Singaporeans, especially in the radio industry, speak like Americans when many have not lived in the US for an appropriate amount of time for their accents to change significantly? Have we no pride as an anglophone society and no confidence in our shared English heritage, that we misguidedly equate good English speech with the Anglo-American accent?

We already have our models, in government, civil society, and the TV newsroom.

First World Singapore can do without this colonial kowtowing to the White Man.