Speak right, lah.

Singapore is a language connoisseur’s fine Belgian chocolate shoppe, expect far less delicate and far more rich. Though close to 75% ethnically Chinese Singapore does not have only one national language, but four. Additionally, the language preferred for government and commerce, English, is casually spoken in a creole — a language born of two or more parent languages — called Singlish. Bring in expatriates, international students, and guest workers to the mix and you have a spoken experience like none other.

The four national languages of Singapore are English, Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Malayu, and Tamil. Chinese being widely spoken among the super majority of the population. Bahasa Malayu being the ethnic language of the country on the other side of the Johor Straits, Malaysia. Tamil the language spoken by the Indian minority brought to Singapore by the colonial British, but now citizens of Singapore. And lastly, English which was chosen as the language preferred for government and commerce as a neutral tongue for all of the different ethnicities in Singapore. While I am in Singapore, I will be undertaking coursework in Bahasa Indonesia — which is closely related with Bahasa Malayu — and in Mandarin Chinese.

Wa lau eh, Singlish damn cool, lah. I have only just been introduced to the local English creole in Singapore, Singlish, but it is damn cool. It combines vocabulary mostly from Hokkien Chinese, Malay, and English. Its grammatical structure is more like Chinese than English. I will have more posts in the future as I get more of a grasp of the language, but for now, I can say already that it is a blast to learn. Haven’t gotten the accent down straight yet though, a couple of Singaporeans have asked if I am Hawaiian when I have tried out what I learned so far.

Posted on 27/07/2011, in Language, Singapore. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Bob Benjaminson

    Good going, Kevin! I’ve only acquired a few words in Mandarin so far (no study, no learn). Pin Yin helps a lot: learning those ideographs is a job for a child or a computer. It sounds like you’re having a blast. Onward and upward!

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