The Queen's English?

Guyana Chronicle
August 6, 1999

THERE is a mounting problem with the Queen's English in countries like Guyana that those who set standards in matters like these have to put on the front burner.

And we are not talking about the finer points of the language that puritans and technocrats delight in.

There are already far too many students coming out of schools and even the University of Guyana so deficient in the English Language that it is more than embarrassing. If not checked it can become a national scandal, or even worse, because people soon may not be able to fully understand each other.

As if that were not enough, the traditional English (as in Queen's English, or English English) is under severe pressure from American English in former British colonies like Guyana which still use the English of the former colonials but which cannot escape the sheer power of American culture and language.

More than the close family ties in the United States, the onslaught on the English English is from the American television which is almost all-pervasive here.

And so newspapers, for example, seem to be fighting a losing battle on whether programme or program is correct, or whether centre or center is right.

And complicating it all is that the bulk of the computer programming used here is American so that `spell checks' in computers generally do not recognise English English.

So, what happens in schools?

What do teachers of English here tell children who see center or program, for example, on television and are faced with centre and programme in classes in school?

Which is right?

Guyanese have already had to change from the imperial system to the metric way of measuring, weighing and related matters and now there is this English English or American English dilemma.

Some sort of guidance or standard is needed here.

We reported yesterday, too, on what's coming, with a U.S.-British dictionary consigning the Queen's English to history and proclaiming that the future is in a colourful (or is it colorful?) new patchwork of words culled from around the globe.

It is clear that English is no longer old or plain.

According to Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury, which co-published the dictionary with Microsoft, "English is now a global language that belongs to all of those who speak it."

Some may argue that this is all yadda yadda yadda (American English for the English trite) but Guyana and Guyanese seem caught in the centre (or is it center?) of a language tug-of-war.

There's need for some guidance - so it's over to our in-house `From Word to Word' expert and officials like Education Minister, Dr. Dale Bisnauth, himself a gifted exponent of the English language.

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