Thursday, February 27, 2014

MOE's Joke Book Part 2

After writing MOE's Joke Book (Part 1), I stumbled upon one more incredible gem in ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 and I really hope my readers will indulge me one more article on this matter and I promise I won't belabour the same point again but this really is the funniest thing you'll ever see in your entire life. And this time, I swear that if nobody finds this uproariously funny, I'm prepared to streak down not just Orchard Road but all the way through Holland Road to Holland Village and do a lambada in the middle of the town square!

A reader is confused. Should we say "use your brain" or "use your brains". You won't believe the answer given by the English language expert. First, he goes through the anatomical structure of the human brain. That's a no-brainer - any fool can regurgitate the same facts from wikipedia. Then comes the priceless gem, the beauty of which will be lost if you do not see it for yourself. Here's a pic I took of the page itself.


I bet you're now in stitches.

Do we say the monkey which wrote this answer has no brain or brains? Singapore's language experts will tell you it depends on whether it was written by one monkey or more than one.


EDITOR'S NOTE:

By now, some of my readers probably believe both the grammar books are in fact joke books. Sadly, they are not.  Both books are intended as a reliable guide to students and the general public on how best to speak and write in the English language. They are widely sold in all book shops in Singapore and are found particularly in schools and school children are encouraged to buy them. They both topped the best seller charts in Singapore for a very long time. Prof Koh Tai Ann, the then Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement, writes in the Preface to ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN, that the book "addresses common errors, and areas of concern and confusion, through examples and explanations under three categories: Usage; Vocabulary; and Grammar." She continues to say that the book "examines and explains the sometimes baffling rules of grammar." She hopes that the book "will not only help readers to clarify areas of uncertainty in their use of the language but also foster an awareness of how we speak and write English." In the Foreword, Felix Soh, Deputy Editor of the Straits Times writes, "This book is not designed to grace a shelf but as a practical guidebook. Use it, refer to it - and speak with confidence."


I have in more than a dozen blog posts shown quite conclusively that both books are so shockingly wrong and flawed that anyone who depends on them does so to his detriment. If you are interested in looking at the entire list of all my blog posts on this subject, please click on this. It's a growing list and I will add to it every time I post a new article in my blog on the subject.

I'm doing this in the hope that MOE will realise what rotten apples they have for language experts and what a disgrace their grammar books really are but so far, all my posts have fallen on deaf ears. But it doesn't matter. I've been richly entertained by both books and I hope I've entertained my readers too. And I assure you there'll be more posts.

For a full list of grammar errors made by MOE, the Speak Good English Movement and other language teachers, please click here.

MOE's Joke Book

I sometimes feel a little down and exhausted and I need a good joke book to perk me up. Last night, I was in a pensive mood thinking about a friend who recently passed away when my eyes rested on the Ministry of Education's ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN. To be fair to the Ministry of Education (MOE), it is only openly responsible for that book and not its sequel ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2. These two books are Singapore's all-time best sellers and each one of them has seen no fewer than ten re-prints. As I have shown in more than a dozen posts in this blog, both books are a huge minefield that will most certainly mislead young students of the English language into making outrageous grammatical mistakes that they would not have made if they hadn't read the book. If you want to have a look at the long and growing list of shocking mistakes made by Singapore's English language experts, please click on this link. But for those of us who are not so misguided as to rely on books written under the auspices of the MOE and Singapore's Speak Good English Movement for our knowledge of English grammar, this book by both the MOE and the Speak Good English Movement together with its sequel affords hours of entertainment and laughter. ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN is the MOE's most successful joke book. It is quite aptly titled - English as it is broken by Singapore's language experts.

I was thinking of my friend who passed away just a week ago (God bless his soul) and reflecting on the transience of human life as I leafed through ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2, when I came across this passage in the book that brought laughter and mirth back to my downcast spirit. Both books follow a simple question-and-answer format. First, a question is asked by someone who may be a student or just anyone from the general public. This is immediately followed by the answer given by the language expert. In the first book, this panel of language experts are clearly stated to be English language specialists from the MOE.

Here is a pic of the question followed by the expert's answer.




I will ignore the obvious typographical error - the omission of "be" after the word "should". This happens to the best of us. So far, the "experts" have not made any error. I thought that was rather surprising because I've read both grammar books and I stand by what I say - almost every page contains some ludicrous error that even young kids wouldn't make. Anyway, I didn't have long to wait. On that very same page, another reader challenges the experts. But what is really priceless is the experts' answer. Read it for yourself and if you don't burst out laughing, I'm prepared to streak down Orchard Road.


The language experts who had a hand in the writing of this answer must be a bunch of illiterate ninnies with an IQ way below that of a retarded bonobo. Of course the reader is wrong. "Premises" used in that sense is one of those nouns that are always plural and there are no exceptions. Any average English speaker knows that. One doesn't even have to be an English language expert to know something this basic and simple. And yet Singapore's English language experts are as clueless as a newborn babe in swaddling clothes.

Both books are filled with such priceless gems. It's hilarious to see how these ignorant experts hedge their answers or conceal their ignorance with jokes and generally make all kinds of ridiculous statements which, I'm convinced, will leave the reader with the unmistakeable impression that they are no more language experts than a troop of jabbering baboons.

I highly recommend ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN and ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 to those who are reasonably proficient in the English language and who may have need of something to make them laugh. For learners of the English language, it is prudent to assume everything stated in both books to be wrong because the odds are high that it is wrong.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Are local school kids less able than foreign ones?

I have just been referred to this article presumably written by a school teacher in Singapore. He or she is of the view that Singaporean school kids are more reserved in class and less able to make a class presentation than foreign students who are more eloquent and have a better command of the English language.

I'm tempted to disagree with her but since I haven't got statistical data to back me up, I will simply say that I have no knowledge if her opinion is accurate.  I would have been more forceful in my disagreement if I hadn't recently chanced on clear evidence of how rotten English language teachers in Singapore could really be. I have presented examples of this in my recent blog posts and if you would like to see a list of all the examples of the kind of English Singaporean teachers and language experts write in, you may click here. This is a growing list and I will update it whenever I write a fresh post in this blog on the subject.

I really have no idea if Singaporean students are indeed more reserved and less able than their foreign counterparts in terms of language skills and public speaking. I would have thought much of it is dependent on whether a child is an introvert or an extrovert. But I will defer to the writer who is a school teacher and has no doubt a much richer experience with a far greater number of Singaporean students than I can possibly have in my entire lifetime.

I will assume that the writer's observation is correct and reliable and Singaporean students are less able to do a book review in class or to speak in front of a crowd. The writer does not specify in her article the country the foreigners came from but I am no less a keen observer and I can safely assume they are Indian nationals. Let me phrase the question succinctly so we can all home in on the real issues at hand: WHY ARE INDIAN NATIONALS MORE ABLE THAN SINGAPOREANS IN PUBLIC SPEAKING?

Anyone who visits India will notice immediately that the average educated Indian can speak very good English. He will also observe that the average Indian reads far more than a Singaporean. I remember going to a book shop in India which was no more than a ramshackle hut with a partially caved-in zinc roof and there were a few schoolboys browsing through the books. I looked at what they were reading and without exception, they were all reading Victorian novels in this tumbledown book shop. Who inspired them to read Victorian novels?

If Singapore's language experts are so absolutely rotten in their command of the English language as I have demonstrated quite ably in my recent blog posts, how can we expect our students to be inspired to write and speak as well as Indian students?  From my own personal experience, Singaporean teachers aren't at all learned in English grammar. I can recount many personal experiences with some of my kids' teachers but that will take a long time. If you click on the link above, you will see a list of some of the mistakes English language experts from the Ministry of Education make in grammar books that they have the gall to publish. If these are our English experts, what hope have students in Singapore unless we parents take charge of their language education ourselves?

I don't want to appear like a captious pedant but even the blog post written by the school teacher who is decrying the lack of English proficiency among Singaporean students isn't without any grammatical error. I immediately noticed a glaring error in the first few sentences. One would have thought anyone who was writing about other people's command of the English language would at least have taken the trouble to read through what he'd written and made sure it was flawless.

Perhaps, our students' inability to make public speeches has a lot to do with their lack of confidence in the English language. One can hardly fault them if their English language teachers are equally clueless about basic English grammar rules and what we see in Singapore is a sorry situation of the blind leading the blind.

EDITOR'S NOTE [25 February 2014 at 2:15pm]

I was rightly chided by a friend. He said that if I mentioned that someone had made a grammatical error in her text, I should point out precisely what error it was that I referred to in my blog. I should not assume anyone could tell what error there was in a passage. He admitted that he read through the article and could not spot any error in the teacher's blog post.  My friend is right and I apologise to my readers for not identifying her error.  The truth is I'm not bothered about grammar and I don't care for errors but since the writer was loudly complaining about the standard of English of Singaporean students, it's only right that I should expose her mistake.

Here is a very short excerpt of what she wrote.



The error is in the second paragraph in the sentence "And she did it so eloquently and grammatically sound." This error is pardonable in daily conversations but when it appears in the blog post of a language teacher who is declaiming against the poor standard of English of Singaporean students, it's a little hard for one to excuse her.

The mistake shows the blog writer's poor grasp of conjunctions. "And she did it so eloquently" is correct.  "And she did it so grammatically sound" is obviously wrong. The sentence should read "And she did it so eloquently and grammatically." Or "And she did it so eloquently and she was so grammatically sound". But NOT "And she did it so eloquently and grammatically sound." Anyone with an elementary knowledge of conjunctions, adverbs and adjectives should know this.

That's all I have to say. It's not in my nature to correct other people's grammar but since she's an English language teacher and she is making an observation about the state of English proficiency in Singapore, I suppose it is only fair to remind her that our poor students have a lot of reasons not to be as confident in public speaking as students from India. The burden rests squarely on our teachers' shoulders. Whether our English language teachers have discharged their duty properly is debatable.

If you are interested in a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists (as I call them), click here. I have included this post in the list. My definition of a grammar terrorist is anyone who criticises another person's grammar or command of English when he himself is in error. The person has to be an English language teacher or the English language experts from the Ministry of Education (MOE) (most of my posts are against these experts from MOE) or someone who represents himself as an authority on the language.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Singapore's Language Experts - the Nation's Disgrace

Singapore is an amazing country. Despite being so small that you can't run a marathon in it in a straight line without hitting the sea, Singapore has shown itself in many respects to be superior to most other bigger countries, particularly in the arena of education where the PISA test results rank it the top in the world together with Taiwan, South Korea and China.

There is however an ugly spot on the face of its otherwise impeccable educational record. Singapore's English language experts (from both the Ministry of Education and the Speak Good English Movement) are an incredible disgrace to this nation which normally has a low tolerance for incompetence. Singapore's language experts are not just incompetent; they are totally ignorant of even the rudiments of English grammar but as I have shown in various posts in this blog, they go out of their way to misrepresent to the nation's trusting and ingenuous school children that they are experts in the language. What they do is insidious - they tell students who write perfectly grammatical sentences that they are wrong and they teach them to write what renowned grammarians condemn as wrong and ungrammatical. If you are interested in reading specific examples in my blog, I have a list of them here. Look under Heading No. 1 "TEACHERS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE". I will add to this list as I write more posts in this blog.

Through the collaboration of the Ministry of Education and the Speak Good English Movement, two grammar books were written called ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN and ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2. These two books are hugely popular in schools all over Singapore and they have gone through at least ten re-reprints each. I have examined both books and I have documented some of the errors in my blog and will continue to write more when I have the time. Almost every page of both books contains atrocious errors. The books are both so appallingly flawed that at one point, I really thought they were meant to be a parody of English grammar books. If there is a 50% chance of the language experts getting some very basic point in English correct, they will somehow get it all wrong. What I've written in the list provided above is only the tip of the iceberg. There are far too many mistakes in both books for anyone to attempt to correct them all. What's truly ironical is the fact that Singapore's language experts are more ignorant of basic grammar rules than the students they purport to teach. These books should properly be titled ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN BY SINGAPORE'S LANGUAGE EXPERTS.

I have shown in this blog many examples that will convince any reader that Singapore's language experts are really clueless about anything pertaining to English grammar. Here's one more taken from the book ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2. The book is in a question-and-answer format. It begins with a question posed by a reader of the Straits Times newspaper and it's immediately followed by the answer given by the language experts.


In this excerpt, a reader notices that the experts wrote in a previous article "as hot as them" instead of the more formally acceptable "as hot as they" and he questions the experts if they may have slipped up. Just read the experts' answer and if you will ignore the irritating arrogance which permeates the entire book, you will see how they try to worm their way out by adding one mistake on top of another.

Real grammarians (as opposed to Singapore's disgraceful nitwits who have the gall to call themselves language experts) say a different thing. "As hot as they" is generally considered preferable in formal settings but in daily conversations, "as hot as them" is commonly accepted. Burchfield says, "To escape censure, and also sometimes to avoid ambiguity, it is better in formal writing to adopt the style he is as clever as he/she/they". Robert Allen says the same thing. Grammarians are all agreed on this.

Singapore's sham experts say a different thing. They say it should be "as hot as them" and not "as hot as they" because in the sentence "Don't you wish your teacher is as hot as them?" them is the object! If that is so, all the real grammarians are wrong and so are all the great writers.

How can Singapore's language experts be so dead wrong in something as simple as identifying the subject and object in a simple sentence? How can one of the world's top-ranking educational giants be so crippled and helpless when it comes to basic English grammar? Let's not kid ourselves. Although Singapore has four official languages, English is the main language of the land. It's the language of the government, the courts, schools and just about every single institution here. The fact that Singapore's English language experts don't even know the rudiments of English grammar is certainly a disgrace to a country which prides itself on being correct in almost everything you can think of. Singapore usually fixes instantly anything that's broken and has no qualms about getting rid of things that don't work. Why the Ministry of Education has done nothing about its language experts is totally incomprehensible to me. Any competent Education Ministry would have sent Singapore's language experts to the stocks and pillory years ago and removed their appalling books from the book shops and incinerated them.

You may wonder if I have anything personal against Singapore's language experts from the Ministry of Education. The truth is I do not even know who they are. I'm however totally repulsed by the shamelessness of a group of people who are not just totally ignorant of even the most basic rule of grammar but have the effrontery to misrepresent themselves as experts when they are in truth no better than a troop of chattering gibbons. At least gibbons don't teach students what's clearly wrong.

For a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists, click on this. Please note that this list of grammar terrorists will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How to Spot a Rotten Language Teacher

It's not easy to be a good language teacher. Most people I know think that the English language is the easiest language to master. It's the language that comes most naturally to the highest percentage of humans regardless of our ethnicity and background. While many of us are able to get our grammar largely correct in speech and writing, very few of us can make good teachers of the language.

I must, at the very beginning, make it clear that I have never been a professional teacher. While I consider the teaching profession a truly noble one, I have never, not even for an hour, taught for remuneration. I have to specify that because I have taught, for short spells, (under the umbrella of the church) in a penitentiary and also to the children of drug offenders. My little forays into the world of teaching tell me I'm a bad teacher and I have difficulty communicating effectively with my students especially when they aren't really interested in their work.

But I'm not a professional teacher and I've not earned a single cent from teaching and I have no intention of becoming a professional teacher and so it doesn't bother me in the least if I make a bad teacher. But the language experts of the Ministry of Education (MOE) are different. They are paid teachers of the English language and they have contributed to two disgracefully flawed books on grammar and as I have said repeatedly in my previous posts, MOE should do something about these teachers.

I will refer to one more example from the book ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN by MOE's "panel of English language specialists". This is the format of the book: first a question is asked by someone who has written to the Straits Times newspaper. The question is immediately followed by an answer given by MOE's panel of specialists.


Let's examine the effectiveness of the teaching method of MOE's panel of English language specialists according to two criteria. First, we'll look at the teacher's personal knowledge of the subject. Does the teacher understand English grammar? I'm not even asking if the teacher knows enough to teach. I'm merely assessing if the teacher himself or herself has personal knowledge of what he or she is talking about.  Next we will see what is really taught to the student and how effective it is.

The question in the book is a perfectly legitimate question asked by a student who needs help in grammar. Why is "ring" in the present tense? Let's look at the answer of the experts and examine it under the two criteria I have laid down.

1.  THE TEACHER'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT

The writers of ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN and ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 are consistent in referring to such a verb (in the above case it's "heard") as a catenative. I am positive I have seen it repeated elsewhere in these books. The verb "heard" as used in the example given by the questioner is NOT a catenative. By classifying the verb as a catenative, the experts from MOE have demonstrated immediately their ignorance of this aspect of grammar. They are wrong from the very outset.

2.  THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE TEACHING METHOD

Since MOE's language experts are ignorant of this part of grammar, it naturally follows that whatever they teach cannot be effective. But I will examine their teaching method all the same.

One thing I really hate about ignorant teachers is their tendency to throw smoke bombs at the students just to confuse them, perhaps in the hope that the students do not discover that these teachers are really clueless about grammar. They love long technical words even if they don't know what they mean. The verb is not a catenative but even if it were, what good would it do to talk about catenatives? The student wants to know WHY the second verb is "ring" instead of "rang". Notice that MOE's experts totally fail to give any answer as to why the second verb is "ring".

Catenatives have a different set of rules altogether and they are much more complex and varied than the example given by the student of the verb "heard" which must always be followed by an -ing construction or a bare infinitive. Why is that so? What other verbs fall under the same category? What are the exceptions to the rule? Any good teacher of grammar should be aware of the exceptions to almost every basic grammar rule. MOE's language experts are totally silent on these questions. It's only after the teacher has covered these questions that he is at liberty to proceed further and talk about catenatives and why the student must not confuse them with the verb "heard" as given in the student's question.  They must learn not to be as ignorant as MOE's experts.

In order for a student to understand the rules governing catenatives, he needs to have a good grounding in verbs which MOE's experts evidently haven't got. That's not really necessary for a student who is not studying English language at uni level. A good teacher will not use complex sounding terms just for show but he will answer the question properly and in a way that the student can understand.  MOE's experts, on the other hand, employ technical terms that they themselves don't understand.  And the worst thing is they leave the question unanswered.

MOE's English language specialists fail on all counts of what makes a good teacher.

How can one tell that a language teacher is rotten? If he displays ignorance on the subject he is teaching and he uses technical terms that he doesn't understand and that have no direct bearing on the immediate question asked and he doesn't at all answer the question, you know you're better off asking a chimpanzee for help. At least it won't teach you the wrong thing.


For a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists, click on this. Please note that this list of grammar terrorists will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Speak Good English Movement's Consultant Strikes Again

In my last post, I wrote about a blogger who is a Vice-Dean in the School of Arts and Social Sciences and a consultant to the Speak Good English Movement. He holds a PhD in Linguistics from Cambridge University; his PhD dissertation was on some aspect of Singapore colloquial English. I would expect him to be far more careful before he denounces anything as non-Standard Singapore English. As you can see from that previous post on this blog, he was totally ignorant of a rather fundamental rule of grammar when he wrote in his blog that the Straits Times' use of a verb was not Standard English but was a feature of Singapore English derived from Chinese.

There is more in his blog. For instance, this:



Those who have been following my blog must know by now how I detest anyone who would, at the drop of a hat, brand anything as Singlish or non-Standard Singapore English. I always ask myself why this captious nutter can't simply look up a dictionary or a book on grammar before he puts on his pointy hat, plonks his rump on St Peter's throne and pontificates on what Standard English is.

This blogger is a good example. I won't name him because the purpose of my blog is not to name and shame anyone. I merely want to draw the attention of the people of Singapore to the fact that our command of English isn't bad at all. As a fervent supporter of Singlish, I really don't see anything wrong with a beautiful variant of English that is steeped in the history, culture and flavour of this land. Singlish is as homey to us as the fragrance of satay, prata and char kway teow. It's stupid to suggest that since foreigners might not understand Singlish, it should be abolished. You might as well say we should abolish Hokkien, Tamil and Malay because foreigners don't understand them.

Why does the blogger not check the dictionary before he declares that "departmental store" is Singapore English while "department store" is Standard English? I can't speak for the blogger because I do not know him but I do know some people who have this tendency of looking at any piece of writing in Singapore with a jaundiced eye. If you have been following my blog, you should be aware of some of the instances I've pointed out in my previous posts.

The simple thing to do when one is in doubt is to look up a good dictionary.  From the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, we learn this: "departmental store = department store". Nowhere does it relegate "departmental store" to Singlish or Singapore English.

I asked myself why the blogger didn't look up a good dictionary. Bear in mind that the blogger is the Vice-Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences in one of our new universities. As far as I know, all universities in this day and age channel funds first to their Business schools and if there is any money left over in the Finance Department, the Linguistics Department might see a tiny trickle. Perhaps you can't find the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in the Arts library of any university. After all, this two-volume dictionary cost me quite a fortune and universities these days would rather spend their money on management books than invest in a mere dictionary.

So I looked up my old Concise Oxford Dictionary which I bought on a meagre schoolboy allowance. Now, surely this is something any library can afford even if it's starved of money by a university policy that generously favours the more money-generating faculties. This is what the Concise Oxford says: "departmental store = department store".

There we have it. "Departmental store" is Standard English and not Singapore English derived from Chinese.

It's interesting to note that one of his readers made a comment on his blog.



She asks if he's right. His reply is really amusing. This is what he says, "'Departmental' is an adjective that means 'connected with a department', e.g. 'departmental supervisor' (supervisor connected with a department). So, a 'departmental store' would be odd, because it would describe a store that is connected with a department." Well, the Oxford English Dictionary says you are wrong and that's that!

For a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists, click on this. Please note that this list of grammar terrorists will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Consultant to the Speak Good English Movement Writes

So far, I've been slamming grammar terrorists who aren't all that competent in English grammar and usage. They may be teaching the English language to students and they may choose to style themselves English language experts or specialists but from what they have written (and as you can see from what I have carefully documented in the numerous posts in this blog), one can't really consider them competent in the language in any sense of the word. Most of them don't even know the rudiments of English grammar. I define a grammar terrorist (and it doesn't bother me how other people might have used the term) as someone who seeks to tell others they are grammatically wrong when he himself is incorrect.

As I have said before, most grammar terrorists are people who know precious little about grammar. Sometimes, a grammar terrorist has an impression that a sentence or phrase is wrong. It may be that he vaguely recalls being told that it was wrong but he can't now remember the details. That he proceeds to denounce the sentence or phrase as wrong without first checking if he is right is what really irritates me.

But there are all kinds of grammar terrorists.  I recently discovered a blog written by someone who is a Vice-Dean in one of our new universities that seem to be sprouting up like mushrooms. From my reading of his blog and elsewhere on the internet, I understand that he did a PhD dissertation in Cambridge on some aspect of Singapore colloquial English. And for what it's worth, he is also a consultant to the Speak Good English Movement. Naturally, one would expect him to be more careful in denouncing local writing as non-Standard especially when it is not.

In one of his blog posts, he comments on an excerpt from the Straits Times. Here is the excerpt followed by his comment.



What utter nonsense! I was tempted to title this post "What They Don't Teach You in Cambridge Linguistics School" after the famous management book "What They Don't Teach You in Harvard Business School" but I decided that wouldn't be fair to Cambridge. The writer did his PhD dissertation in Cambridge but his only other degree is from Lancaster University. I always try to be as factual as I can in my blog.

But never mind where he got his BA from. I would have thought a student with a BA in English Language from any university would at least know how to look up books on grammar and usage even if he is unable to remember some of the things he has been taught.

When I first read his comment on the Straits Times excerpt, I was rather surprised. I checked the credentials of the blogger again just to be sure that my eyes didn't deceive me the first time I read them. I thought everyone knew perfectly well that "will" could be used for habitual events. How on earth can this consultant to the Speak Good English Movement be so wrong in basic grammar?

It is amusing that he was so sure that the use of "will" to express habits is a feature of Singapore English.  He goes on to suggest that it's probably an influence from Chinese. But as I have said earlier, his PhD dissertation in Cambridge was on an aspect of Singapore colloquial English so I doubt very much if you will believe me when I say he's wrong. You probably think he should know what constitutes Singapore English and he's probably right and I'm wrong.  The onus is on me to show he's wrong and what better way to do that than to refer to a grammar book? I will quote from two grammar books just so I can assure you that I'm right and he's dead wrong.

In the Oxford Guide to English Grammar under the title "Habits: will, would and used to", it says this:
We can use these verbs for habits, actions which are repeated again and again. We use will for present habits and would for past habits. 
Among the examples given in the book is this.
Every day Jane will come home from school and ring up the friends she's just been talking to.
The Oxford Guide goes on to say:
The meaning is almost the same as a simple tense: Every day Jane comes home... 
The book continues to say further:
But we use will as a kind of prediction. The action is so typical and happens so regularly that we can predict it will continue.
And that is precisely what the Straits Times writer means when he writes, "During his daily commute to work, Mr Kwok will whip out his Samsung Galaxy Note..." And of course it is Standard English and the blogger who, let us not forget, is a consultant to the Speak Good English Movement is totally wrong. Yes, it's the Speak Good English Movement again and again, isn't it? I've been mentioning the Speak Good English Movement ad nauseam in my recent posts but you can't blame me if they seem to be behind every act of grammar terrorism.

The second book I will refer to is A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk and others which I don't like to take down from my shelf because it's such a large and heavy book. Under the title "Will/would", it says that the habitual predictive meaning of will occurs "in descriptions of personal habits or characteristic behaviour". The book then gives various examples but I'll just pick one of them:
She'll sit on the floor quietly all day. She'll just play with her toys and you won't hear a murmur from her. [of a good baby]
But really, when you think about it, this is precisely what all of us who are competent English speakers would naturally say or write. Even without thinking about it, we wouldn't dream of saying that the Straits Times used "will" in a way that is non-Standard Singapore English. That's because those of us who are used to the general feel of the English language somehow can tell if something is right or wrong.

What this consultant to the Speak Good English Movement does is pernicious. He will ruin the confidence of the average person who probably thinks the blogger is right.

Grammar terrorists who tell us we are wrong when we are not are effectively hampering our creativity! The English language is beautiful in that it allows for so many different ways in which we can express a thought, more so than in any other languages. It's very annoying when grammar terrorists tell us that we are wrong when we are not, simply because they assume without any justification that any variation of an expression they are accustomed to must necessarily be non-Standard and a feature of Singapore English.

I have not finished with this consultant to the Speak Good English Movement and Vice-Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences in one of our new universities. Keep an eye on this blog for the next post and if you have been following my blog, you know you haven't got long to wait.

For a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists, click on this. Please note that this list of grammar terrorists will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

Teachers from Hell

We've earlier seen how a student who got his grammar right was marked wrong by a teacher who told him to re-arrange his sentence in a way which in fact made it incorrect. And when the student asked Singapore's language "experts" if he was really wrong, the "experts" agreed with his teacher and they even went so far as to make up their own grammar rule. Click here if you want to read that post.

Now, the language experts are getting even nastier. Not only do they agree one more time with a school teacher who's got it all wrong, they tell off the student in the most arrogant way.

Here's an excerpt from English As It Is Broken (Book 2), a grammar book which, together with Book 1, is published by the Ministry of Education, the Speak Good English Movement and the Straits Times.


Do you see how arrogant the language "experts" are in their reply to the student's question? What's wrong with "high morality"? This is something the Ministry of Education should drum into their teachers. Never suggest that a student is wrong unless you can back it up with a grammar book or a dictionary. Don't depend on your own feelings because like most teachers in Singapore that we have seen, you are probably ignorant of basic grammar and you don't read much to begin with and so it's not prudent for you to rely on your own judgement and sense of what is grammatical and what isn't. And even if you are right (which is rare and can only happen by some stroke of stupendous good fortune), there is no justification for such an obnoxious answer.

The teacher and the language "experts" are both badly mistaken. There is nothing wrong with "high morality". It's very difficult to deal with grammar terrorists (ill-qualified pedants who correct others when they themselves are wrong) when they pick on something like this because I have to scour countless books to show a similar usage. That is why I have always said that the onus must be on the person who claims someone else is wrong to show that he really is wrong. I have quotations from various newspapers and I don't mean the Straits Times which is infamous for making grammatical mistakes which will show that "high morality" isn't a concoction of the student in Singapore. The New York Times and the New Statesman have both used "high morality" and so have about a million other proficient English users.

In the New York Times, we have "high morality" from the lips of the then President Ronald Reagan.



In the New Statesman, we see "high morality" in Sir David Attenborough's speech.


You may very well argue that Ronald Reagan and Sir David Attenborough can hardly shed much light on correct English usage. But we all know it's very easy to make a bare allegation that a phrase is incorrect and it's very difficult for the hapless student to show he is correct. Even if he is able to search the internet for newspaper articles, as I have done, the unreasonable teacher can always insist that the newspaper articles and the student are both equally wrong.  If you google "high morality", you will probably get references to other people's blogs (which don't count for much) and if you search further, you may unearth newspaper articles as I have done. But an obstinate and ignorant teacher may still not be satisfied.

Here is when you have to turn to your own extensive reading of the works of the literary giants and poetry is particularly helpful. What I just did to look for a literary work that has "high morality" in it was to blank my mind and think of the novels and poems I have read. I was pretty certain that "high morality" featured in one of these works. Don't spend too much time on this. It's not worth your time. But there is a period in a day which I devote solely to poetry reading. I decided that for that day, I would spend my time looking through the many books of poetry in my library. I could roughly tell which poets were the ones who would talk about morality. I must confess it's easier with poetry than novels because with poetry, one tends to remember the lines more easily than the text of a novel. And I hope I won't be accused of sexism if I said that I felt it was more likely that I would find the phrase in the work of a female poet. But I can hardly be called sexist if I say that women are more likely to speak of the virtues of high morality. That's to their credit.

Within ten minutes of searching through my trusty volume by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch which, incidentally, happens to be the only book Rumpole reads, I found what I was looking for. It's in the poem of Emily Brontë who, as most of you should be familiar, is the author of that great novel Wuthering Heights. Like most people in her day, she wrote poems too, and very good ones they are.

In "Stanza", Emily Brontë writes:
I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality.
There we have it. The student's use of "high morality" has the support of a renowned novelist and poet who ranks among the best in the canon of good literature, even if you think a former US President and Sir David Attenborough aren't good enough.

There is nothing wrong with "high morality".  What the student's teacher and the language "experts" are doing is pernicious. These people stifle a student's creativity. The beauty of the English language lies in the myriad of ways any thought can be expressed. To tell a student he can't use a phrase when it's perfectly all right is extremely harmful in that it effectively puts the student's mind in a straitjacket and he's conditioned to limit himself only to specific stock phrases. I have written before in a previous blog post about this strange idea some Singaporeans have that there is only one way to say something and any variation is ungrammatical and should be strongly discouraged.

I really hope the Ministry of Education would do something about our English teachers. Many of them have the car park attendant mentality. They have to book offenders in order to justify their salaries. They think they are paid to tell students they are wrong. No, English teachers are paid to teach English. If the teachers themselves do not know English grammar and usage, they ought not to teach English at all. I may be wrong but I'm inclined to think after seeing so many outrageous errors made by English teachers in Singapore that perhaps some schools treat the English language as an unimportant subject and teachers who haven't got any qualification or expertise in anything at all are made to teach English.

Let's forget the teachers for the moment. There is nothing anyone can do if some English teachers in Singapore are not qualified to teach English and they choose to remain in the profession. What should the student do? Here is where parents must do their part. Since we have looked at Brontë's poem, I'll filch her words. Parents should leave the "busy chase of wealth" and have some time for their kids. Parents should make it a point to look up grammar books and dictionaries and try to think of the poems they have read. If you can't do this, ask a friend who's truly knowledgeable about language and literature. Don't depend on the English teacher, especially if you know he isn't suited to the job. I'm usually very quick and accurate in sizing up my kids' English teachers. And don't write to the Speak Good English Movement's "English As It Is Broken" panel of experts. As their name suggests quite honestly, they can only give you English as it is broken by them.

For a full list of grammar errors made by MOE, the Speak Good English Movement and other language teachers, please click here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A List of Grammar Terrorists

I have written at great length about people who go about correcting other people's grammar when they themselves are wrong. That really gets my goat.

As I have said many times before, it is not polite to correct other people's language even when they have flouted the rules of grammar. But when they are not wrong in their language and what they say is perfectly correct and grammarians are agreed on this, the person who seeks to correct them ought to be pilloried and made an example of.  I call such people grammar terrorists. Just as Islamic terrorists aren't really following the true teachings of Islam, grammar terrorists aren't following the rules of grammar. They slam others, laugh at them but they themselves are really wrong.

Just who are these grammar terrorists? Here's a list with links to all my blog posts on grammar terrorism that I've posted on this blog arranged in chronological order . The list is divided into different categories for easy reading. I will of course update this post every time I write a fresh blog post about a grammar terrorist. I have a very broad definition of a grammar terrorist. Anyone who criticises another person's grammar or command of English when he himself is in error is a grammar terrorist. Many of us are but many of us are not language teachers. A grammar terrorist has to be someone whose job makes language correctness on his part all the more important.
EDITOR: I have included in this list other posts that deal with the use of language. These posts may have nothing to do with grammar terrorists but if they relate to language, I've included them here and if I can't classify them under any of the subheadings, I'll place them under "MISC".

LIST OF MY POSTS ON GRAMMAR TERRORISTS AND LANGUAGE ERRORS MADE BY OTHERS

1.   TEACHERS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

A. Singapore's Speak Good English Movement
Links:
Our Language Watchdog's Bark
Why Singapore's Speak Good English Movement Should be Scrapped
An Appeal to the Ministry of Education
STICK NO BILLS
MOE's Language Expert Blunders Again
Proof that MOE's English experts ruin students' English
The Cowardice of Our Language "Experts"
AND THE TWO SHALL BE ONE
Teachers from Hell
How to Spot a Rotten Language Teacher
Singapore's Language Experts - the Nation's Disgrace
MOE's Joke Book
MOE's Joke Book Part 2
The Blind Leading the Blind
MOE's Language Experts Need Voice Training
Ultra-CRAP!
The Yap-Soh-Pee-Khoo gang on the English language
Confusion Over Concord
A Matter of Degree
The Unrepentant Speak Good English Movement is Back!
Why I Excoriate the Speak Good English Movement
Folks, they're back!!!
IT'S OFFICIAL - SINGAPORE HAS LOST TO MALAYSIA
Are you scared of teachers who can ruin you?
The Speak Good English Movement Blunders for the Umpteenth Time
Speak Good English Movement - where every sentence is wrong
Singapore - Excellent in All Things EXCEPT...
I urge the Speak Good English Movement to do the only decent and honourable thing
TAKE this!
The Speak Good English Movement Blunders Again
Endless Stupidity
Singapore's Illiterate Movement
They Can't Even Get the Title of Their Conference Right.
Why Singapore's language 'experts' make up their own erroneous grammar rules.
THE MOST UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL
A Perfect Singapore?
When it can be embarrassing to receive a national award from Singapore
Wrong Again!!!
Breaking News: The Speak Good English Movement is finally disbanded
Singapore's English Movement in error again
The Speak Good English Movement's new grammar book
The Speak Good English Movement's new grammar book PART 2
Why pick on shopping centres in Singapore?

B.  Ludwig Tan, Vice-Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, SIM Univerity and consultant to the Speak Good English Movement, Singapore
Links:
Consultant to the Speak Good English Movement writes.
Speak Good English Movement's Consultant Strikes Again
What's wrong with Singapore's educators?
What's wrong with Singapore's educators? Part 2
Why I exposed Ludwig Tan's Errors
Why I exposed Ludwig Tan's Errors  Part 2 
What's in a name?
When everything a Singaporean says is always deemed to be wrong
THE MOST UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL

C. Adam Brown, teacher in Singapore's National Institute of Education and writer of books on Singlish
Links:
What's wrong with Singapore's educators?
What's wrong with Singapore's educators? Part 2
TAKE this!

D.  Jon Gingerich who, I believe, runs a school on language, style and usage.
Links:
Unlearned Pedants Part 1 - Jon Gingerich
Unlearned Pedants Part 1 - Jon Gingerich (final segment)

E.  A Schoolteacher in Singapore
Links:
Are local school kids less able than foreign ones?

F.  Mind Stretcher - a language school in Singapore
Links:
Teacher, teach thyself.

G.  Mind Matters - a language school in Singapore
Links:
English Matters!

H.  Learning Lab (only mentioned in passing)
Links:
Confusion Over Concord

I.  Anglo-Chinese School (ACS)
Links:
How America Confuses the World
Singapore School Anthems Part 1
When school principals in Singapore err

J.   Marymount Convent School
Links:
Singapore School Anthems Part 2

K.  Raffles Girls' School (RGS)
Links:
Singapore School Anthems Part 2

L. Stalford - a private school in Singapore
Links:
Embarrassing Ads by Private Schools

M. Pat's Schoolhouse
Links:
An Ad by Pats' Schoolhouse
Pat's Schoolhouse again!
Pat's Schoolhouse keeps getting its grammar wrong
Good Lord! It's the Pat's Schoolhouse ad again.

N. Methodist Girls' School
Links:
When school principals in Singapore err

O. National University of Singapore.
Links:
One's background does not matter but grammar does
Illiterate Graduates?

P. Eye Level Learning Centre
Links:
National Errors

2.   NEWSPAPERS

A.  The Straits Times
Links:
When the Straits Times refuses to publish your letter.
Why Can't the Straits Times Get It Right?

B.   The New Paper
Links:
You Can Go Crazy But You Can't Go Toilet

C.   High (a luxury fashion magazine)
Links:
When the Gazelle Trips

D. The Vulcan Post
Links:
AMOS YEE'S "GRAMMAR ACCORDING TO A SCHOOL DROPOUT"

E. Singapore Tatler
Links:
Glamour without Grammar

F. The Washington Post
Links:
Liberal Loonies Linguistically Trumped

3.   OTHERS

A.  The spokesman of City Harvest Church (I place this in a separate category because of Singaporeans' interest in anything that City Harvest does)
Links:
City Harvest on the English Language

B.  The man on the Chai Chee omnibus
Links:
Cooking up imaginary language rules
Fetch a grammarian!!!
Hypercritical or Humorous?
Sex and the Church

C. Statesmen
Links:
Chan Chun Sing's Error

D. The clueless masses
Links:
Brouhaha in Singapore over Nothing
Brouhaha in Singapore over Nothing Part 2
Brouhaha in Singapore over Nothing Part 3

E. The Land Transport Authority
Links:
Illiteracy in Singapore - the Land Transport Authority
Why pick on shopping centres in Singapore?
LTA's illiterate poster

F. TEDxNUS
Links:
TEDxNUS, mind your language!!!

G. Oliver Kamm, columnist with the Times.
Links:
A Kamm-ouflaged Pedant

H. Merriam-Webster
Links:
Don't buy a Webster's Dictionary!


4.   MISC.

I am squeezing in here some posts that deal with the language but aren't really about grammar terrorists. If you are interested in having a look at the other posts on the language which I might have missed in this list, you may click on "Language" in the right column of this blog under "Labels".

Of Spanish Rain and Asian Flood
Singapore Needs the Bard
Prof Bas Aarts is wrong about the subjunctive mood.
Why the green great dragon can't exist.
Unable Inability
ABBA was wrong?
Is the Queen's English really the Queen's English?
Grammar is just a game
Puzzling prepositions? Why grammarians should stop being contrary.
Let's talk about old age.
What the dickens!
Tense because of tenses
Mr Goh Chok Tong's Facebook post

How to Excel in English at PSLE and Beyond

Rule 1
Rule 2 Example 1
Rule 2 Example 2

Sunday, February 9, 2014

AND THE TWO SHALL BE ONE

This is a continuation of the previous post.

In the previous post, we see the cowardice of our language experts. A reader makes a bold claim that the correct usage in England and in the US should be what he says is found in two books:  the Reader's Digest, The Right Word at the Right Time and Webster's Guide to English Usage. Our poor experts are now confused. Can one really say "There is a dog and a cat"? We are of course not referring to a situation where a hunter after trekking through an African jungle sees a large snake and he wants to caution his friends behind him. He intends to say "There is a snake here" but just as he says "There is a snake...", he sees a lion waiting in ambush and he adds "and a lion". What's acceptable in spoken English especially given the exigencies of our exciting everyday drama cannot be the basis for grammar rules. I have no idea what The Right Word at the Right Time says nor will I bother to find out. Whatever your views may be on the publications of the Reader's Digest, I need scarcely say that no grammarian or even a student of grammar will refer to these publications as an authority on English grammar and usage. As for Webster's English Usage, no English speaker east of the Atlantic and west of the Pacific will bother to look at it.

But our dear language experts are unnerved by the reader and they quietly tuck their tails between their legs and remain totally silent. But as the Bard rightly points out, when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions. Almost immediately after our poor language experts from the Ministry of Education are cowed into silence by a reader's opinion, someone else has to ask again this infernal question of fiendish complexity.


Now, you would have thought this was the sort of question not even someone in a semi-comatose state would have to struggle with in order to come up with the right answer. But brace yourselves for the shocking answer from MOE's panel of English language specialists.


Yes, that's the answer of MOE's panel of experts. What could have possessed MOE's experts to come up with this insane statement?  In the next paragraph, they relent a little and say that you can use the plural verb and mind you, not because it's the only right verb to use but because it will be easier for the listeners!  They then give two other examples which show how clueless these English specialists from MOE are.



As anyone knows, "bread and butter" and "fish and chips" cannot by any stretch of the imagination be likened to "Alan and George" and we are not talking about a partnership entity called Alan and George. If MOE's language experts don't know that, I'm sure there is a kindergarten in Singapore that will take them in and teach them the rudiments of the English language.


For a full list of grammar errors made by MOE, the Speak Good English Movement and other language teachers, please click here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Cowardice of Our Language "Experts"

In my blog post yesterday (click here), I expressed in an addendum my confusion and uncertainty over the involvement of the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the writing of ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN (Books 1 & 2). But for the purpose of this post, there is no confusion at all because I'm confining myself to Book 1 which clearly states on the Acknowledgements page that the answers and comments in that volume come from the "panel of English Language specialists" of the Ministry of Education. Although we are unable to ascertain who the individual "specialists" are, we know for sure that they are from the Ministry of Education simply because that's what the book itself tells us.

While the language experts are without a doubt generally incredibly cocksure in their answers, they usually become suddenly timid when members of the public make a reply contradicting what they say especially when the reply is done in a confident tone or if there is included a claim that books have been consulted. In such an instance, either the experts back down and pretend to enlarge upon what they have said earlier but anyone can see that they are really backpedalling which can be really amusing or they capitulate to the reader who is given the last say on the subject and the experts retire in disgrace. I really must say that both volumes of ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN have been truly entertaining but not in the way they were intended.

There are many hilarious examples but let me give you one.

A reader asks an elementary question, the sort that even MOE's language specialists should have no problem answering.


Someone else who has read this answer then takes it upon himself to write to the panel his view of the matter. What he says appears below in the inset titled "Your say"




































Now, what I find incredible is the language experts from MOE obviously decide that they are not in a position to post a rebuttal to what this reader says. Notice how they give this comment by the reader pride of place on this page. It looks like it's pinned to the page with the words "YOUR SAY" and it is indeed the final say on the matter without even the tiniest disagreement from MOE.

The fact that the experts allow the reader's opinion to be placed in the book as the final definitive opinion on the subject means that they must agree with it. Surely if they think the reader is wrong, they must say something to correct that reader? After all, this is such a popular book in Singapore and it was on the best seller list for many months and it has a wide readership among students and the general public and is probably the most influential book on grammar in Singapore.

Why is the reader's view given so much prominence in the book and there's not even the smallest squeak of disagreement from the experts? The book was published in 2007 and has undergone at least 9 reprints. The reader's comment remains the final say on this matter.

Why do you think MOE's language experts behave in this cowardly fashion? As you know, I love to get to the psychology behind the error and here's what I think actually happened.

When the reader mentioned that he had consulted two books in order for him to arrive at his opinion, MOE's language experts probably felt intimidated and hence the absolute silence. This leads me to two possibilities:

1. MOE's language experts are children or teenagers and they do not know how to engage an adult in an argument. This has the support of evidence I've gathered from elsewhere in the book when the experts seem more comfortable flexing their muscles when they are dealing with schoolchildren. They are more likely to do their backpedalling when adults disagree with them. I have considered this possibility for a long time and although I'm not prepared to give it up altogether, I'm more inclined to go with the second possibility.

2. MOE's language experts are just plain incompetent and have serious proficiency problems. Why then did MOE appoint them language experts?

I suppose this is one great mystery that will never be solved unless MOE is prepared to shed some light on it.

Note: If you are interested, there is a sequel to this post. If you are on the main blog, just look at the post immediately after this.

For a full list of grammar errors made by MOE, the Speak Good English Movement and other language teachers, please click here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Proof that MOE's English experts ruin students' English

ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN and ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 are two grammar books published by the Straits Times, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Speak Good English Movement. They are both in a question-and-answer format. The questions on grammar come from the general public (usually school students) and the answers are provided by a panel of English language experts from MOE.

It is most unsettling when I see a student who is correct in his grammar being told by the panel of experts that he is wrong and he is asked to follow a sentence structure which any English-speaking person must know is incorrect. When I see this (and there are quite a few examples in both books), I can't help thinking that students in Singapore would be so much better off if MOE dismissed its panel of experts.  Let me give an example from ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2.

Here's a question from a school student followed by the answer given by the panel of English experts from MOE.


The student wrote, "Do you know who the inventor of the camera is?" and his teacher changed that to "Do you know who is the inventor of the camera?"

MOE's panel of English specialists agree with the teacher.  Suspend your horror for the moment. A reader was uncomfortable with the answer and he wrote to the panel of experts to say that "Do you know who the inventor of the camera is?" is correct.



Like most people who speak good English but do not know the specific rules of grammar, the reader can tell that the experts are wrong but he doesn't know how to explain why they are wrong. 

Here's the panel's reply.



Any right-thinking person must know that the panel of "English experts" are spewing rubbish form their mouths.  What really annoys me is the fact that the experts must know that they are making up their own rule. Such a ludicrous rule cannot have come from any grammar book. I am tempted to question their honesty because in my books, anyone who makes up his own grammar rule to justify his erroneous statement must be deliberately deceptive. Here we have an honest reader who is saying that he "feels" the panel is wrong but he can't quite put a finger to it. The decent thing to do is to show the reader what grammar books say about such a sentence structure and if the books show that the experts are wrong (as any respectable grammar book most certainly will show that), they should admit they're wrong. Instead what the panel does is to make up their own rule. 

Any "natural" English speaker (and he does not have to be a native speaker) must know that the experts are wrong here. It's wrong to say "Do you know who is the inventor...?" The correct form is "Do you know who the inventor is?"

What MOE is saying is when you remove "Do you know", the clause that follows must be able to stand on its own and since you can't say "Who the inventor is?", the correct question must read "Do you know who is the inventor?" There is no such rule in grammar and I'm positive it was concocted by MOE's panel of experts. You only have to look up any grammar book and you will see that no such rule exists.

I am reluctant to make any reference to a grammar book because this is so elementary and I understand from my own children that this is something all primary school kids know. But there's no harm picking a few examples from a grammar book. I'm now seated in my study and right in front of me on my table are five grammar books. Quirk's A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language weighs a ton and I'm not going to break my arm for MOE since they don't even thank me for this. I'll refer to The Oxford Guide to English Grammar which is much smaller. You can use any grammar book you have. What we are looking for should appear in the part of the book on basic sentence structure.

The rule is very simple. Let me paraphrase it for ease of comprehension. The usual subject-auxiliary inversion that we see in questions does not apply in an indirect question where the question is put into a sub-clause beginning with a question word such as, in our case, "what". It's the same rule (ie non-inversion) if instead of a question word, we have "if" or "whether". The Oxford Guide gives the following examples:

We need to know what the rules are.
Could you tell me where Queen Street is, please?
Do you know when the train gets in?

can't help wondering what kind of teachers MOE produces if their English language experts don't even know such a basic grammatical rule. Don't forget that the student who asks the question wrote the correct sentence but was marked wrong by his teacher. But my children assure me that all primary school English teachers know this rule so at least I'm comforted that primary school English teachers aren't as clueless as MOE's panel of English language experts.

What MOE should do is to sack its entire panel of English language experts. If MOE needs any evidence to support their dismissal as just and lawful, simply adduce as evidence pages 78 and 79 of ENGLISH LANGUAGE AS IT IS BROKEN 2. If they can't remember the page number, any page will do and the first volume is just as bad as the second. That's how bad they both are.  Never before in my entire life have I seen a grammar book that is so disgracefully wrong on almost every page as these two books by MOE's experts.


IMPORTANT NOTE [7 Feb 2014; 8:54pm]:  WHAT EXACTLY IS THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION IN THESE TWO APPALLING BOOKS?

In English As It Is Broken, the name and logo of the Ministry of Education appear clearly on the back cover. On the Acknowledgements page, gratitude is expressed to "the Ministry of Education for the panel of English Language specialists to answer and comment on the questions and queries sent in by the public, and the support given to the publication of this collection of language gems".


In English As It Is Broken 2, the Ministry of Education does not seem to feature at all. The English Language panel are individually named and a search on the internet seems to indicate that they are connected  to the Speak Good English Movement and I'm unable to see any link to the Ministry of Education.  Is it possible that the involvement of the Ministry of Education is confined to only the first volume and not the second? Since both books are disgracefully riddled with outrageous errors, any involvement in either book is still a huge embarrassment for the Ministry.


NOTE:

I have given other instances of MOE's shocking English errors and if you are interested, you can click on the following:
1. Have/has and other errors
2. Cooking Up Two Rules and 
3. Stick No Bills.
4. An Appeal to the Ministry of Education.

For a full list of grammar errors made by MOE, the Speak Good English Movement and other language teachers, please click here.