The Notion that there is only One Correct Way to Speak English 

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Taking this course opened by eyes to the fact that there are many negative attitudes and misconceptions towards speakers of Non-Standard English, or in other words, other variations of the English language. Standard English refers to the variety of English language that we are taught in school, and it is also that same variety that is used in print, such as newspapers, articles, and academic reports. Standard English is also believed to be the variety which is spoken usually by educated people, this is one of the negative notions towards NSE speakers. While the dictionary defines Standard English as “the form of the English language widely accepted as the usual or correct form”, Peter Trudgill states that it is worth noting the differences between standard and non-standard, “has nothing in principle to do with differences between formal and colloquial language, or with concepts such as “bad language” (Trudgill, 2000). He goes on to say that it is important to be able to understand these differences because using a type of language that is considered slang or informal could lead to one being labeled as not speaking Standard English.

While Standard English has a lot more status and achievement attached to it, the same cannot be said about Non-Standard English. Non-standard varieties are considered to be “wrong”, “ugly”, “corrupt”, or “lazy” (Trudgill, 2000). The believe that Standard English is the one correct way, has created a sense of comradery among those who view the other varieties of English as a deviation from what is considered the norm, and according to Trudgill this deviation is “due to laziness, ignorance or lack of intelligence” (Trudgill, 2000). Trudgill also states that it is important to understand that there is nothing that is present or existing in the non-standard English varieties that makes them inferior to Standard English, the only inferiority that is apparent has been due to their connection and association with those speakers from deprived, low-status groups.

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Standard English is the variety of English used when writing, when speaking though, regardless of whom we may be talking to, most of us seem to go straight to our non-standard variation of English. I believe that there is a time and a place for everything, just like there are times when speaking properly is required, there are also times when it is okay to be grammatically incorrect and not be judged for it. Here, in the United States, our government has not yet proposed legal laws encouraging the people to only speak the Standard English language, the same cannot be said for certain parts of the world. According to an article on the Harvard Business Review, English has now become the national language of business, and therefore, more and more companies considered multi-national are now requiring English is their common corporate language. So, it should come as no surprise that some of the countries that are part of the global business are taking drastic measures to encourage the use of Standard English rather than non-standard varieties being spoken.

A great example of a government encouraging their people to only speak Standard English, the language universally understood, is the Singaporean Government. The government started the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM), and in response to this movement, the Speak Good Singlish Movement (SGSM) was initiated. According to Wee, the “Singapore government has for some time been concerned that Singaporean’s ability to speak standard English might be affected by the popularity of Singlish” (Wee, 2014). It is important to recognize that Singapore is very much a melting pot of many races. The different races have mixed Standard English with the vocabulary of their native languages, resulting in a language which they can all understand.

According to Galloway and Rose, “English may be the mother tongue of many Singaporeans, but the use of English that reflects a local or shared identity that differs from ‘standard’ English is not recognized by the government and is discouraged” (Rose & Galloway, 2015). In this way, Singlish, which is a name that was given to the colloquial variety of English that is spoken in Singapore, is not recognized, and the government has taken certain measures to make this known. For example, in September of 2010, the Speak Good English Movement re-launched its campaign with the tagline, “Get It Right”, in order to push and encourage Singaporeans to speak good English. The new tagline consisted of going around to public places and pasting stickers to correct bad English with handwritten notes (Wee, 2014). The Speak Good English Movement chairman, Goh Eck Kheng is quoted as saying, “We put sticky notes in high?density areas and whether people like it or they don’t like it, they’ve attracted a lot of attention to the message that we are putting out and there’s a very heightened awareness”. The image below shows an example of how the stickers were intended to be used.

Days after the 2010 “Get It Right” tagline, the Speak Good Singlish Movement was launched. The Singaporeans wanted to make sure to point out that they were not acting against the SGEM, the people were getting tired of the fact that Singlish was being confused with broken English- and they were being labeled as bad English speakers because of their use of non-standard varieties. They believed that if the people were going to speak Singlish, they wanted people to speak it right. In their own words, “You dun wanna learn the subtle rules of this natural evolving language, then dun anyhow say it is simple, shallow, and useless please! Singlish is full of culture, of nuances and wordplay. It pulls together the swee?ness in the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of so many languages.” (Wee, 2014). The Singaporeans are also an example of people who are aware of and know that Standard language, but they chose speak Singlish, the version that they understand. And they have fought to be able to speak and keep their Singlish. “In a country that only came into being with independence in 1965 and consists of three ethnic groups– Chinese, Malays and Indians– Singlish is an important unifying force. It draws its roots from several Chinese dialects…And many Singaporeans consider it the only cultural trait uniquely Singaporean.” (Rubdy, 2001)

Along with a lot of public attention, the SGEM has also attracted plenty of criticism because of the many inconsistencies within the policy. The movement is also a great example of the continuous ongoing language debate, standard vs. non-standard English (Rose & Galloway, 2017). I don’t believe this is a debate that will be figured out within the next 10 years or so but, who are we to stand in between a person and their cultural values and beliefs? What is the motivation of having everybody speak the same language? For me, it is so hard to imagine a world full of the exact same people, speaking the same exact language. But if it does happen, I guarantee it will be a pretty boring world. I think that our abilities to speak or understand other languages are some of the things that give us our own identities and individualism, we need to embrace our differences rather than encourage for all to be the same.

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The Notion That There Is Only One Correct Way to Speak English . (2022, Aug 27). Retrieved from