News @ AsiaOne

Signs with good English, please

Spot poor ones and help their owners to improve them through a contest. -ST

Mon, Aug 31, 2009
The Straits Times

By Serene Luo

'DOOR is alarmed.' 'House removal services.' 'No Parking for Motorists.'

Who doesn't love a badly worded sign?

The Speak Good English Movement, apparently, which has made those unintentional gems a target of this year's campaign.

In a competition called Fix That Sign, passers-by are encouraged to take pictures of signs that miss the mark because of poor English.

But when submitting them, they must also suggest the right words in place of the wrong ones.

The contest takes one step further Singapore Press Holdings' Stomp portal's English As It Is Broken series, which has run for three years. Stomp is collaborating with the movement on the contest.

Related videos:
»Speak Good English launch - Part 1
»Speak Good English launch - Part 2
»Speak Good English launch - Part 3
»Speak Good English launch - Part 4

An average of three photographs of badly worded signs are received every week, said Stomp editor Chew V' Ming.

'Generally, many are coming from hawkers, stallholders, small businesses and contractors,' he said. Though mostly typographical errors, and often slight, they can make the signs illogical, too difficult to understand or, worse, their owners a laughing stock.

China conducted a similar campaign to correct 'Chinglish' signs in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics last year.

Speaking at the launch of the annual movement yesterday, guest of honour Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, said that the campaign would also reach out to organisations to ensure the signboards they put out are in good English.

'This will create an environment where Singaporeans are exposed to good English all the time, no matter where they are,' he said.

The contest begins on Tuesday and will run for four months on Stomp. Readers will choose the best three pictures, with their corrections, and the senders will win prizes such as a netbook computer, a mobile phone and a digital camera.

It is understood that there are plans to contact the owners of the badly worded signs found through the contest and help them put up better-worded ones.

This year's campaign, coming at a time when Singaporeans are increasingly in contact with overseas visitors, will target youth by using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The young are being targeted because a survey last year showed that many are not motivated to improve their English, the movement's chairman Goh Eck Kheng explained.

Mr Teo, also Defence Minister, emphasised that effective communication in English would give Singapore 'a competitive edge' when working in international business and trade.

It would also help bridge language differences more easily when Singaporeans meet people of other nationalities at the upcoming Formula One races, the Youth Olympic Games and when the integrated resorts open, he said.

Though the movement is into its 10th year, inculcating the ability to speak English well will take 'a generation or two', he said.

'English did not start off as a home language for most of Singapore, so it requires effort and energy sustained over a long period of time to become entrenched,' he said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

Copyright ©2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.
Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise