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Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 8:38:54 AM
by lucille dass
Forerunner: Lucille Dass with a print copy of the first article that she wrote for MOE in 2001.
Calling all MOE adherents … hear ye, hear ye! Here’s an ode to MOE:
Minders of the MOE column have come and gone since 2001
… and now though the column itself seems set to go,
as faithful followers, this we know… its
Overarching intent to educate and arouse interest in the
English language among the populace will long be remembered.
Mnemosyne (Titan goddess of memory and the inventress of language and words) reminds me that this is my second farewell note to appear on this page. The first (if you recall), was to bid adios to our percipient pioneer editor Kee Thuan Chye who retired in 2009 after helming the Mind Our English (MOE) column for eight years beginning in 2001.
I remember coming on board with my first contribution in the same year. The column was then listed on a page marked “Issues.” Accordingly, in my first piece I took issue with the already fast faltering standards of how English was being taught, particularly in vernacular schools. I was responding to the Cabinet announcement that English would be taught to Year One students of Chinese schools beginning in 2003.
Before MOE’s inception, all articles related to language/education appeared in The Sunday Star (Education section). I remember because I was a frequent contributor to this section from the early 1990s.
The emergence of the MOE column in the country’s leading English daily was an indication that the deteriorating standard and status of English had become a matter of grave concern nationwide. The People’s Paper rightly felt compelled to play a functional role in the circumstances, so its discerning editor set in place this column that was to appeal to a wide range of readers and writers for 12 long years.
Over time the column evolved to accommodate all things English – in matter, manner, and method. As a logophile, I appreciated the free rein of taking readers on a romp through this multi-faceted, complex, crazy, and intriguing language to show the stunts it could pull to trick, treat, tease, and yes, teach its patrons in a fun way!
Meanwhile, in measured balance, the more sober contributors rightly wrote and showed with much vigour the foundational rigours of the language in varying contexts.
The flexibility accorded to its contributors led the column to celebrate a vast scope of linguistic individuality: its creative deviance and formal adherence; its morphological versatility such as the ability to agglutinate (unite to create new words) and separate as willed by context; its verbal humour couched in puns and slips of the tongue; and how structure-fracture resulted in an amusing hodgepodge of howlers.
Coursing through the smorgasbord of articles may have been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride for struggling language learners while a smooth sail for language lovers. Fun and sobriety took turns on the page to illustrate, fascinate and even frustrate to good measure! On a more mindful note, we learned tidy bits of language history, etymology, structure, and of course, use. For this, we owe thanks to a diverse pool of writers
brought on board by the column-minders. Fadzilah Amin must surely be mentioned for she steadfastly stood sentinel to safeguard the sanctity and sanity of the language throughout its course. She (my former lecturer in university) even wagged her finger at me once ... in good faith.
Given the nationwide concern, interest, and steadfast support in wanting to restore the language to its former glory (let’s remain optimistic in the face of pessimism), I hope that the demise of this column here will see its rise in another related guise elsewhere in the paper. In StarEducate, perhaps?
I say this because I know of students who read this column and it will be helpful to continue to provide this additional opportunity for them to interact with the language. Learners, please remember that in the mastery of a language, you must make the language work for you! You must use it or you will lose it! Learning a language is an experiential process.
To conclude, here is an adapted extension of my verse from “A farewell ode” (MOE, May 29, 2009):
In this, my farewell note
I’d like to raise a toast
to celebrate the verve and vigour
with which all writers wrote …
Making their mark through diverse
Overtures into the linguistic stratosphere
Engaging patrons week after week
to explore and to explain
so learners could learn language and its grammar without pain
while some wrote … simply to delight and to entertain!
Now, I’d better mind my manners in parting: Thank you Andrew Sia, for the opportunity to be part of the MOE family. So long … !
Lucille Dass is a former lecturer turned freelance trainer in teacher development. She delights in cheeky takes on words … and is sorry to see the MOE column go.
Goodbye Mind Our English!
Tags / Keywords:
Education, Mind Our English
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