“The government instituted a “Use Proper English” campaign, with the laudable goal of making Singapore more internationally competitive. Newspapers have been running regular columns to teach readers the correct way to use English. The flipside of this campaign is a perceived denigration of Singlish. Many people fear that the plan is to eradicate Singlish. There are even reports of TV sitcom scripts being rejected if they contain Singlish expressions.” (Hitchings, 2006)
This sort of political oppression of what is a genuine native expression is very saddening. In a political sense, it is highly undemocratic as well, because the average Singaporean is more comfortable with Singlish than Standard English. Seen in this perspective, the working class intellectuals who are fighting against the dominant government stance can be said to oppose this ‘neo-colonial’ injustice within the larger postcolonial discourse. The Singlish language, which offered a mode of agency to the common Singaporean during the colonial era, is now facing a threat from its own indigenous leaders. This situation is fast emerging into a standoff between the average Singaporean and the Establishment. The entertainment industry, whose customer base is the majority of the population, is also supportive of Singlish usage. They correctly see “Singlish as one of Singapore’s few unique defining features. It is a common language understood by people from all the different racial groups making up Singapore. Furthermore, recent movies like “I Not Stupid” and “Talking Cock” have featured Singlish and helped to build public support.” (Hall, 2004) In this context, it is uncertain yet if Singlish will continue playing its emancipator role in the postcolonial era. But Singapore and its vast majority of population will be poorer for it if it fails.
The rationality for supporting Singlish goes beyond its utility to studying post-colonialism. There are facets to Singlish that mark it as one of the great cultural achievements of the modern era. If language had ever captured the spirit of a nation and its people, then Singlish is an outstanding example. For example, much removed from the sober formalness of Standard English, Singlish has plenty of humour, much of it deliberately constructed. The political incorrectness inherent in Singlish – a source of discontent for the critics – only adds to its power to serve as an agent of individual and collective expression. It has its limitations, though, in that it does not possess a comprehensive vocabulary, idioms and grammatical structures. This could prove a handicap is serious intellectual discourse on par with Western academic scholarship is sought to be conducted in Singlish. (Hall, 2004) This is a legitimate concern, when even standards of conventional English are declining in Singapore. In a survey conducted in leading business schools in the country, a majority of undergraduate students were found to have inadequate communication skills. The findings indicate that the faculty perceived undergraduate communication skills “to be in need of improvement, thus lending support to employer and government criticism. An analysis of survey responses revealed some probable underlying causes for faculty perceptions, including an apparent lack of real commitment to the improvement of such skills.” (Hall, 2004)