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Singapore to launch speak-good-English campaign

August 30, 1999

SINGAPORE will launch a speak-good-English campaign as part of government moves to discourage "Singlish," the island state's unique version of the language.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said Singlish - with its bewildering mix of English, Malay and Indian and Chinese dialects -- was unacceptable, describing it as "English corrupted by Singaporeans."

Goh and other leaders have repeatedly discouraged Singaporeans from speaking Singlish, saying the former British colony risks losing its competitive edge because English is widely used in political, business and academic circles.

"If we don't stick to the rules of common usage or if we mix English with other languages, then it is no longer English as it is understood throughout the world. Problems in communication will arise," he warned.

Goh, speaking to his electoral constituents late Sunday, said English also enabled Singapore "to break out of our small geographical confines and reach out to the rest of the world."

"Singlish is broken, ungrammatical English sprinkled with words and phrases from local dialects and Malay which English speakers outside Singapore have difficulties in understanding," he said.

The speak-good-English campaign will be launched next year by the Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Goh urged the Singaporean media to create programmes that will make learning standard English fun and said they "can highlight common errors in English in Singapore" during the campaign.

Singapore's 3.1 million people are 77 percent ethic Chinese, 14 percent Malay and seven percent Indian, and there is a thriving multi-racial community of about 700,000 foreign workers and professionals.

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