Saturday, May 15, 2010

Linguistic Snobbery

Someone please explain to me why the f**k does the UK Home Office's Border Agency not classify Singapore as a "majority English speaking" country. Least I need to remind them, it was their empire-building, bureaucratic Georgian ancestors, who realized that perhaps the British wasn't quite as dominant as the Dutch within the archipelago, that sailed to those fair shores nearly 200 years ago in an attempt to colonize the island, and introduced English as the "administrative standard".

Just so we're clear, every child in Singapore goes through at least 10 years of compulsory English language education, along with an appropriate mother tongue language -- this makes nearly everybody in Singapore effectively bilingual. Besides being the first language, English, along with Malay, Chinese and Tamil, is an official language of Singapore. There also are stringent checks and balances within the education system which makes sure absolutely everybody receives the necessary bilingual education, which is more than I can say for the UK education system.

Interestingly, the UK Border Agency does classify Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica as "majority English speaking" countries. Nothing wrong with that, since English is indeed the official language in these countries. But just because Singapore decided to take a stand against British repossession of the country after WWII, not recognize the Queen as our head of state and not send children to wave little Union Jack flags should the Queen visit, and don't know how to sing "God Save the Queen", doesn't mean we're not better off than the UK in terms of linguistic competence. It's about time the UK government grew out of these narrow, Eurocentric views already!

Just in case you're interested, the countries that the UKBA recognizes as "majority English speaking" countries are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. God, I couldn't even say all that without without coughing "Commonwealth" and "empire colony" in between!