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    May 29, 2014

    Learn English the fun way - with Kumar

    DO YOU say 50-over dollars, or over 50 dollars?

    This is something that Singaporeans often trip up on.

    To help them speak with precision and accuracy, the Speak Good English Movement is focusing on grammar rules this year.

    And it will be fun.

    The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will use a series of six light-hearted videos featuring local comedian Kumar to teach grammar rules for spoken and written English.

    The videos will be posted weekly on the Speak Good English Movement's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

    Notebooks with grammar rules pertaining to tenses and countable and uncountable nouns, among others, will also be made available to schools and others who are interested.

    This is the first time that grammar is taking centre stage since the movement was launched in 2000 to encourage Singaporeans to speak a form of English that is grammatically correct and universally understood.

    Goh Eck Kheng, chairman of the Speak Good English Movement, said: "Singaporeans are particularly weak in tenses, subject-verb agreement and prepositions. We also use the syntax of other languages for English."

    Mr Goh urged Singaporeans to "consciously" speak standard English.

    "We tend to code-switch when we think that someone can't speak good English. But if you continue to do that, then the people who are weaker in English will never learn what good English is," he noted.

    "If you feel that the person you're speaking to is not very strong in English, be aware of that, be sensitive and use simple vocabulary and speak simple English."

    Adrian Tan, a committee member of the Speak Good English Movement, noted that grammar could be an issue for some Asians, as their mother tongue might not have the same syntax.

    Mr Tan, who is also the director of law firm Stamford Law, said: "If you look at the Chinese language, there is no concept of past tense or subject-verb agreement. When it comes to English, the syntax is completely different. Being brought up in a society which is multilingual, people mix up the concepts."

    Using light-hearted videos is a good way to help others learn English as Singaporeans respond well to humour, he added.

    Patrick Sum, a General Paper teacher at Anglo-Chinese Junior College, said: "We should have standards, but I think that if you try to force these standards on young people who are struggling with the language, it's going to backfire. It's going to make them even more tense and nervous about their mistakes."

    The 39-year-old won an award last year for being an inspiring teacher of English.

    Sng Xu Yun, 14, a student of St Hilda's Secondary School, said: "At school, teachers usually give us worksheets and go through them with us. I think it's definitely more fun to learn grammar through watching videos, especially when the videos are humorous."

    And, by the way, the answer is "over 50 dollars", with "over" meaning "more than".