Thanks for correcting my English, dear
WITH years of experience on stage and television under their belts, drama is clearly a mainstay both at work and at home for married couple R. Chandran, 57, and Amy Cheng, 43.
Today, the pair - who have been married for eight years - work hand-in-hand in heading Singapore's first professional theatre company, ACT 3 Theatrics, which offers literacy programmes dedicated to children.
In the last part of this series on good role models in English, My Paper speaks to the dynamic pair about why one should not babble in baby talk, and how drama creates an ideal platform for learning how to communicate well.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to the use of English?
Chandran: Baby talk. It gets to me when people simplify words to talk in a cutesy way - "Boy-boy, do you want to go gai-gai (go out)?"
It's critical to speak to our children properly, as we would to other adults, because it plays a large part in helping them learn.
I also don't like certain cliched phrases, like "first and foremost", "without further ado" and "last but not least". They've been used so much that the meanings have been lost, and people don't mean what they say.
Amy: So, now when I host, I am very conscious about using those phrases!
For me, my peeve is hearing the word "got" in sentences like "I got eat my breakfast". It's just an additional word that isn't necessary.
I think that for Chandran and myself, teaching English to children has made us more aware of our own speech habits that we need to lose. I try to trim the use of "you know" when I speak, because it's simply a speech filler with no real purpose.
What was the most embarrassing language slip-up that has happened to each of you?
Amy: Last year, I was teaching a class of third-graders in Australia and I used the word "color" - the American way of spelling the word "colour". The pupils looked a little confused, and my mentor told me that they use the British system of spelling - "colour".
I quickly turned it around into a learning point and told the pupils that they should look out for many other words that are spelt differently as well.
Chandran: Mine also happened in the classroom, where I was trying to spell the word "diaphragm". I wrote the first three letters on the board, but then had a mental block and forgot how the rest of the word went. So, I erased it.
One of the tips from this year's Speak Good English Movement is "Don't be afraid to get help to correct your English". As a married couple, how often do you correct each other?
Amy: I'm not sure why but there are certain words that I have to think very carefully first before saying them out. The name "Thomson" somehow always comes out of my mouth as "Thomsom", and Chandran never fails to make a joke out of it.
I also tend to say "Magadascar" instead of "Madagascar", and my older son, Joshua, 16, would always point that out! (The couple have another son, Jivan, five).
Chandran: As an Indian, of course, it's the occasional trouble with making the "v" and "w" sounds, but Amy always reminds me to enunciate the words accurately.
Another tip is "Think before you speak". What does this mean to both of you?
Chandran: Instinctively, I think before I speak because I'm very shy. I'm very thin-skinned so I tend to construct my sentences (in my head) first, especially when I'm not sure of something.
This is also why I like to write because writing gives me time to think. Even in arguments, I'm usually quiet, because I understand that when you're agitated you tend to say things you don't mean and your sentence structures could go haywire, which distorts your intentions.
Amy: Conversely, when I'm angry, I speak very fluently! (Laughs)
ACT 3 Theatrics offers a programme called Literacy through Drama. How does drama help children to improve their English?
Amy: We have different programmes that provide different platforms for children to showcase their own creative stories.
It's all about cultivating joy in writing. We want them to be self-motivated learners who want to write better simply because they enjoy the language and know that there's always a better way to express their ideas.
Chandran: We want them to enjoy the process (of picking up the language and using it), so it doesn't become a chore. Whether in speaking or writing, the ultimate goal is help them to communicate well.
Although I'm shy by nature - and have been ever since I was a child - being on stage has given me the confidence to speak in front of an audience and get my ideas across. With drama, we wrap ourselves in different personas and (are able to) cut off all insecurities.