Monday, February 15, 2010

Common Errors in Malaysian English

Malaysian English can vary from almost perfect Queen's English, to American drawl, to comic convolution, Malay intonation especially with the Kelantan nasal variety, Indian tongue-twister or Chinese chapcai. Each has it's own beauty and attraction when the grammar is more or less correct. But when certain grammatical rules are flouted repeatedly, it shows a failure to grasp the rule well while in school. We can accept Malaysian English however it is spoken but when we write or speak with a faulty grammar, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It can be very nauseating.

I don't pretend to be an English language expert but many common mistakes made by Malaysians speaking or writing in English are so oft repeated that they become most embarrassing. Simple mistakes, perhaps committed w/o being aware about them, or purposefully contrived for fun, are okay. But some mistakes are giveaway clues to an inadequate understanding of the basic grammatical rules.

So why don't we highlight them and get rid of the embarrassment they caused once and for all.

The first common mistake is using double past tense, Eg. I did went, I did noticed, He did asked, did not betrayed, etc. This probably arises from the the common use of verbs in the past perfect tense - I have/had done, I was asked, He got involved in...etc. They look like double past tense too but they refer to past activities fully completed (past perfect tense). 'Did', however, already indicates something done in the past. What follows must, therefore, be in the present tense,eg. I did go, did call, did ask, did do, did say, etc - NOT did asked, did noticed, did came or did went.

Another common mistake involves the use of the past tense of the verb-to-be 'is' ie, 'was'. The verb to be, be it i in the present or past tense, MUST be followed by a verb in the present continuous tense or the past perfect tense. Eg. I was doing my work when he came ( present continuous). I was knocked down by a car ( past perfect). The book was gone (past perfect). To say " was excuse' is certainly wrong. It must be 'was excused', was invited, was heard, was told and so on. Beware. 'was overcome' is correct and not 'was overcame'. Reason: 'overcome' here is a condition ( an adjective), not a doing word (verb). Thus we say: was 'certain', was 'happy', was 'unsure' as compared to 'was informed', 'was checked', 'was unnerved' etc.

Other common mistakes include plural noun followed by a verb in the the singular form: eg. the boys runs away, the birds flies off, people doesn't like, etc. Or the opposite, single noun followed by plural verb: eg. the boy run off, the crowd break away (unless you're referring to the individuals in the crowd), the examinations was unnecessary etc. Such mistakes are often the result of forgetting the singularity or plurality of the noun used. I've heard professors making this mistake, unintentionally of course, but a mistake nonetheless.

That's enough for now. We all make mistakes but a grammatical mistake repeated once too often can be quite embarrassing.
Even in SMS or blog lingo when English, Malay, Chinese etc are often mixed, the grammatical mistake can stick out like a dunce cap on your head. Even when we intentionally foul up the grammar in jest ( eg. very the nice day, long time no see, no gotlah, buy me a drink, can a? you got already ah?, etc) a real grammatical mistake can creep in and become very conspicuous. Mess up a sentence if you will but get the grammar correct.

New Mistakes Observed is surprised that...... should be "it is surprising that...."
...has convey......................(obviously unintentional)... should be "has conveyed..."
...he was completely oblivion about it......was completely oblivious about it...
...much hype about..........much hyped about.....
,,,can claimed....... should be 'can claim' ( you cannot say. 'can ate' can you?)
...they were too consume by their problems.....should be 'too consumed", 'too obsessed' etc.
Noted on April 1, NST p.8 Actor remanded. "He had allegedly beat.." Should be " He allegedly beat" or " had allegedly beaten.."
I still see people using a double past tense: did went, did slept etc. Should be did go, did sleep, did send, did come, did do etc. You cannot say did did, surely. But had slept, had sent, had killed, is right. The second verb is actually in the past perfect tense like had done, had proven, had gone ( not past tense did, proved, went etc).


rambomadonna said...

I think I know a blog that has (present tense) a lot of grammatical errors (plural). Though the writer tried to maintain the Queen's English in her writings, unfortunately most of the time she wrote following her heart than her brain hehehehe.

norzah said...

No problem, J, it's just a matter of not being aware of the error that makes us repeat it sometimes. We can write gila English also when we feel like it but if someone was to say "we can writes gila English.." then
someone might frown. We don't care one how the writing is done but say 'how the essay is wrote' and ada muka yg kerut, hehehe.

stoutfellow said...

It is fun to use Manglish when we know where the mistakes are, and to our friends.

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hariz kreydle said...

Buku Fizikal English Itu Mudah - Belajar Grammar English Dalam Bahasa Malaysia :

Michelle ARe said...

Some concepts are incorrect. Also punctuation and grammatical errors.