English is English. There are variations in the use of English in different countries, such as the Australian way of speaking English, which is to say "Good die" for "Good day" and the American way of saying "vase" with an "Eh" as against "Vase" with an "ah" and the song which says, you say potato (with an oh) and I say "potato" (with an AH). You say "tomato" with an Eh) and I say "tomato" (with an ah) and the end of the song says, "so let’s call the whole thing off" Very prophetic and very true. Each person can pronounce the language the way they wish, however, it is very embarrassing when God becomes Goad and Lord becomes Load, and as the southern folk in America used to say "oh Lordy" which typifies my attempts to get people to speak English naturally, not with an accent nor with an "elocuted" speech as well, which is, as they have said in the papers, is of no use to anyone and I totally agree. However, as part of my speech exercise at any of the classes I conduct, I give them a phonetics sheet with some of the problem areas which are part of the problems of speech patterns of both the Tamil and Sinhala People who try to speak English. To name a few examples of the speech defects not people - For and Four, Jaw and Joe, Caw and Co, the mother-in-law becomes a mother-in-low, and bought becomes boat, while if someone "caught" something, the person would end up wearing it with a "coat"...Paul becomes a pole and Mr. Shawn becomes a person who is shown off with those speech patterns… One can easily identify the nationality of the person from speech patterns. Therefore, it would certainly help in a foreign country to identify, for example, whether you are Indian or of some other origin because then you may not be attacked by the other students who feel that Asians, who come with their cell phones and Nike shoes (not realising that they are cheap imitations), to their countries to study though they get less than the average requirement which prevents the national from entering his/her own universities. Sri Lankans as a race meld and blend with their overseas colleagues because we are very low profile, an advantage on one hand, and a disadvantage on the other because we do not seem to have the personality to raise protests against regimes and unfair practices unlike India where the masses get onto the street and protest if, for example, even the price of rice goes up beyond the average user’s purse. However, while the person is in Sri Lanka, whatever form of English he/she chooses to use, is of little consequence because in the context of the sentence it may be understood. In a foreign country, if you are attempting to get your message across it is very essential that correct English is taught in schools and it is essential that the form of English is in a pattern that is used by most foreign English speaking countries because it would be most frustrating for both the speaker and the listener to have to identify what the person is attempting to say. In its written form, English must be taught as IT IS, and cannot be varied because the teachers are those who write a pure form of English (if the subject is related to the English language such as an Honours in Literature or English). The inclusion of Articles before nouns is absolutely necessary. The Sinhala Language, and it appears the Tamil Language as well, seems to be devoid of articles. In teaching English, unlike in French, the article and noun association is not taught, therefore every sentence corrected to date in most of my students’ essays and what have you, are always missing an article. A professor has already created Singlish (which I think is the best approach the hierarchy in education are trying to implement because it teaches the sounds associated with some of the pronunciations and writing (but not too correct on spellings), but it is again a new language with its typification of the tied sounds such as cl (in club and not in the Sinhala nor Tamil Language) translated into a form that can be recognised by those who use Sinhala. The Tamil people, who do not speak Sinhala, then cannot use this form and have to learn a third language in addition to English. One can easily understand if a person says "I want a glass of water", because it comes in a glass and there is a link to the collective noun Water" however, "I want voter" lacks both the container and the article and the correct pronunciation. It makes you sound like a political candidate. I always say that one must be practical in one’s approach to modifying an existing practice, in this case the language because the effects of what is taught has a far reaching and very negative consequence in the light of international usage.
It would be unwise to attempt to change a language to "our version of it". By doing so at the spoken level, it is very likely that distortion will arise in the written form as well and will be detrimental to students who want to study overseas or live overseas in English speaking countries. On a matter of understanding English, it would be far better to teach children the correct use in both written and spoken forms because no conflict will arise in all approaches to the language, i.e. Spelling, Pronunciation and Writing. At a recent interview, the use of "interfere" was used instead of "Intervene" which put the speaker’s message clearly out of synchronization with what the speaker actually wanted from the foreign community. Nobody will interfere because it is against human rights, but to intervene meant friendly and peaceful intervention, while interfere indicates force.
Andrea Brito Babupulle