The English language can be regarded as the most commonly spoken and understood language in the world, with an estimated total of 1.5 billion people being able to speak English. In addition to being the most commonly spoken and understood language on the planet, it is by far the most commonly studied language in schools.
Which explains why most of the 1.5 billion people are not native speakers of English.However, with this ever-increasing number of non-native English speakers, there also exists drawbacks to this increase in literacy in the English language. In hindsight an increase in literacy is certainly beneficial towards a country, but as it stands in this current state the local languages and dialects of countries supporting English as the main language being learned in school is deteriorating as we speak. An example of this can be seen in Singapore, where in the 1980’s the government of Singapore had changed their language medium to English (including former Chinese-based schools). Due to this change in policy by the government, English is the main language used for business and administration purposes such as official government forms and surveys.Growing up in Singapore, I myself was enrolled by my parents into an English medium school during my kindergarten and primary school years. The one thing that stayed with me was how the school system in Singapore had encouraged bilingualism with most of the classes being conducted in English but they encouraged the use of the student’s respective mother tongue through second language lessons as well as conversing with the school’s staff in either English or their native mother tongue.
This was even reflected on the various signs or warnings on streets, where the same warning was displayed but in four different languages. However, I grew in a generation where English was the most dominant and preferred language for speaking, as a result my skill in other languages deteriorated to the point where I had to take extra lessons to cope with mother tongue in school, this was a common problem in my school with students often taking remedial classes to manage with their native mother tongue as dropping your mother tongue entirely was frowned upon in the community. These extra lessons had put on an extra weight on my shoulders, which made me realize what was wrong with my upbringing. Had I been more aware of my mother tongue and not solely been using English to communicate with my parents and peers I would not have most of the problems which I had faced growing up. Another problem which I had faced while growing up, which I continue to face to this day was the lack of knowledge of non-standard forms of language or dialects. An example of this are the Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, or Hainanese dialects which are not taught formally in school. As a result, the number of speakers of each dialect are currently in the decline. However, these dialects still survive in a form of English called “Singlish” which is a mixture of English and various dialects from Singapore.
This form of English while unique to Singapore, is considered as a low status, and the people who use Singlish regularly are considered to have a low standing with the Singaporean government and some Singaporeans as well as the mass media and schools heavily discourage the general use of Singlish in the general populace of Singapore. However, due to the official discouragement and the routine censorship leads to a reverse psychology effect on the citizens of Singapore, therefore they tend to use it more with the increase in prevention of the use of Singlish.This was one of the main reasons for writing this opinion column where by raising awareness of the spread of the English language and proposing to strike a balance between the English language as well as their native roots in mother tongues and dialects. In order to prevent a phenomenon like Singlish from occurring in other countries.
Singlish was the direct result of linguistic imperialism, due to the British colonization of Singapore where English was the lingua franca for most administrations and for business purposes, and the lower class having a lack of formal schooling or education regarding basic English, they have made their own form of English which takes reference from the various dialects of Singapore. However, Singlish is not recognized nor understood by most of the general populace of the world, save for the population who are familiar with Singapore which alienates some Singaporeans although they were educated in English.