Speech by Second Minister for Education, Ms Indranee Rajah, at the Speak Good English @College West 2019

Published Date: 24 October 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Dr Goh Mong Song, Principal, ITE College West

Mr Yeow Kai Chai, Committee Member, Speak Good English Movement

Teachers and students

1. This is a great event. I thought that the finalists who came up and did their presentations were awesome. Let's give them a big round of applause.

2. The exercise that we started with this morning was interesting, where we looked at the pronunciations of "depth". There are many quirks in the English Language, and we cannot really have a formula for it. You may be able to learn the grammatical rules but there are some things that you will only know when someone teaches it to you. This is the beauty of the English language.

3. English is a very absorbent language. It has a base of English words, but draws from other languages as well, and this is why it is so vibrant and flexible. New words are being created all the time. Forty years ago, the word "selfie" did not exist. It was an invented word and English was capable of absorbing it.

4. There are a number of reasons why it is important to speak English well. Chief among them is that you need English to be able to communicate. People need to understand what you are saying, if not, it could give rise to all sorts of miscommunication.

5. English is our common language, and it helps us to build understanding and friendships with people across cultures and borders. For Singapore in particular, we are right in the middle of a region that is very porous and international. English allows us to communicate and be understood on an international level.

6. For all of you, it is going to make a big difference in terms of jobs. Your ability to secure good jobs also depends on your ability to speak well because your employers and colleagues must be able to understand you.

7. English is also Singapore's language of administration, and is used in business and governance. For all these reasons, there is therefore a pragmatic benefit to having a good command of English.

8. Not everyone may speak English in exactly the same way. But what we promote is Standard English, which means that we must be able to get the grammatical rules right and people must be able to understand you. This does not mean that there is no room for Singlish. Singlish is fun and part of our cultural identity. But it is very important for us to know when to speak in Singlish and when to use Standard English.

9. So, what do we do at MOE to ensure that our students have a good command of English?

10. In schools, we try our very best to build a good foundation of English language in our students from young. This is done through a rigorous and holistic English curriculum that provides students with a rich learning environment to develop a love for learning the language. That's the key – if you love the language and it is fun, it is much easier to acquire it.

11. But we also recognise that there may be some who need additional support, and so we have the Learning Support Programme (LSP) for Primary 1 and 2 students. Under LSP, students who need more help building up their English proficiency will be grouped together in a smaller class during English lessons, where they will receive targeted guidance and instructions from teachers focusing on reading and spelling.

12. Learning good English does not stop at English lessons in school; you can pick up the language from almost any platform because it is all around you. Social media can be very useful in accessing good English – you have to find the right videos, YouTube content and blogs.

13. I would like to end off with encouraging all of you to continue learning and loving the English language. You will find that the language will make a big difference in terms of jobs, and it will open doors to opportunities as well as expand your horizons.

14. Thank you.

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