Languages in Singapore

With its long tradition as an international trading port, Singapore has attracted immigrants from Europe, India and China for centuries, joining with the native Malay to form the basis of its multicultural society.

As a result, when Singapore attained self-government in 1959, four official languages were chosen: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil.

As with many former British colonies, Singapore has maintained English as the language of public administration, education, commerce, science and technology, and of course global communication. English is the working language, while the other official ones, considered as mother tongues, can be studied in school.

 Therefore, all Singaporeans will understand you if you speak English.

While visiting the country, you will certainly notice that locals often speak a kind of broken English. This is the Singapore’s argot, best known as Singlish. It is based on the English language, but with an altered grammar containing many loan-words from the Malay, the Chinese (Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese) and Indian (Tamil, Bengali, Pumjabi) dialects.

Regarded affectionately by locals, this English-based creole language is despised by the authorities.The Singaporean government strongly promotes good English usage, since this is seen as a distinct advantage in terms of doing business and communicating with the rest of the world. This is a honourable point of view, but if you wish to enhance your experience of the local culture and spice up your conversations with locals, you may want to have learn a bit of the entertaining and colourful Singlish language.


Small talk
Your?|What's your name?**
Where your from? or Your from where?|Where are you from? **
Stay here long time?|How long have you been here?**
Ha?|Could you repeat that, please?**
This is what?|What is this?**
Sorry ah. Can say again?|I don’t understand.**
Oh, lai dat ah!|I understand.**
Got problem, ah?|Is there a problem?**
Eh, anything also can.|I don’t mind what we do.**
Tonight go where?|What are you up to tonight?**
You join me for makan?|Shall we get a bite to eat?**
Don’t know how to speak, what.|I don’t speak the language.**

Eh how to do?|How does it work?**
This one how much?|How much is this?**
Wah so expensive, ah!|That seems rather expensive.**
Cannot afford lah.|That’s more than I wanted to pay.**
How? Got discount or not?|Can you give me a discount?**
Ten dollars can?|I’ll offer you ten dollars.**
Can make cheaper lah?|Can we discuss the price?**
Cheaper can or not?|Can you lower the price?**
ATM where?|I need to get more money, where can I find an ATM?**
Visa can?|Do you take credit cards?**
Xie Xie. Thank you ah.|Thank you.** 

Getting around
Walking. Can or not?|Can I walk there?**
Bus interchen where?|Where is the bus terminal?**
Where MRT?|Which way is the MRT station?**
Taxi stand where?|Where can I get a cab?**

Go straight!|Please drive on.**
All the way.|Go straight.**
Uncle, in front turn left.|Please turn left at the next corner.**
Uncle, in front turn right.|Please turn right at the next corner.**
After traffic light.|Go straight through the traffic light.**
Ah, further up.|It’s just a few blocks away.**
Changi Airpor.|I need to go to the airport, please.**

How long more to Orchard?|How far is Orchard Road?**
You tell me where?|Can you tell me when we reach my stop?**
Go Chinatown or not?|Does this bus go to Chinatown?**
Where to buy ticket?|Where is the ticket office?**
How to buy ticket?|What’s the best way to buy a ticket?**

Oh, lai dat ah!