Singaporeans pronouncing W as ‘dub-due’

From ‘English words: Time to say them right’, 4 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ng Hee Chun): Many Singaporeans are not pronouncing English words properly.

For instance, the word “red” is pronounced as “raid”, and the letter “w” is pronounced as “dub-due” instead of “double u”. Other words that are commonly mispronounced include “liaise”; “tuition”; “reservoir”; “abalone”; “almond”; and “their”.

If nothing is done to rectify this, our children will continue to speak this way. It is not about Singlish, or British or American accents.

If even my children’s primary school teachers are pronouncing words wrongly,what can we say about the standard of English that is being passed on?

Singapore is well-known for its high education standards.

But it seems that when it comes to proper English pronunciation, we are not getting it right. It would be helpful if the authorities can create an awareness campaign on how simple English should be spoken in daily life.

Yes, spare a thought for our ‘chew-ren’.

Picking on the ‘raid’ example may be an extreme case, like ‘three vs tree’. Hell, sometimes we can’t even pronounce the name of our own country properly. Even as adults, we fail to grasp why alone is a-loan but abalone is air-buh-loan-NEE. Or Esplanade vs Promenade. We can’t decide if it’s Media-KORE or Media-KOP (Mediacore). We know of Evelyns who introduce themselves as ‘Eve-lyn’ and ‘AIR-VlYN’.

Here’s some other examples of glaringly mispronounced words which we hear in everyday life.

  1. Colleague, or as we say it, KER-LEEG
  2. Film – Flim
  3. Nowadays – Nowsaday
  4. Flour – Flah
  5. Excuse me – Eskew me
  6. Coke – Cock
  7. Primary -Prembry

Perhaps part of the reason why Singaporeans continue to make the same mistakes is because we deem it impolite to correct a person during normal conversation. Also, sometimes we need to mispronounce deliberately just to be understood, depending on the literacy level of the recipient. For example, if I ask a fishmonger if he has any ‘Sam-mon’ instead of ‘SELL-MERN’, I’ll get a blank stare. Or to the desert stall lady that I want ‘AH-MERN’ jelly instead of ‘AL-MOND’. If a school principal asks me if I send my kid to ‘TEW-TION’, I’m not going to reply with the same word pronounced in the ‘proper’ manner (TOO-EE-TION)because it is not socially acceptable to sound smarter than a head of education.

In 1994, our way of speaking was termed ‘Singapore English Pronunciation‘ (SEP) in an academic paper on linguistics. Our tendency to express ‘th’ as in ‘three’, or ‘then’ as ‘den’ was attributed to having ‘the tongue a little further back and without the accompanying hiss, using an alveolar plosive’. We also have problems with ‘consonant clusters’, like how we say ‘fack’ instead of ‘fact’.  The authors concluded that it was not ‘wrong’ for us to speak in this manner, and in some situations may in fact be the most ‘appropriate’ way of speaking.

So yes, it’s a pleasant surprise to know that words like ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Opportunity’ are often taken for granted in SEP, but it’s unlikely that we’ll convert to the ‘proper’ pronunciation overnight because as social animals we’re rather commit linguistic faux pas (‘par’) than be seen as a snob. Instead of taking the pedantic approach and admonishing people for relying on ALVEOLAR PLOSIVES, perhaps we can all learn to live and let live in a ‘I say Toe-may-toe you say Toe-Mar-toe’ world.

 

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3 Responses

  1. […] Educate Our Youth – Blogfather SG: That’s not how you make a better world, kid – Everything also complain: Singaporeans pronouncing W as ‘dub-due’ […]

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