Speaking Singlish

July 30, 2012

I have to say that when we got Kevin’s orders to report to Singapore, I was equal parts excited and terrified. Move to the other side of the world?? Does anyone even speak English there? Luckily, they do. English is actually one of the four official languages here in Singapore, along with Chinese, Malay, and Tamil (who knew Tamil was a language?!). Yes, English is an official language, but Singlish is the language of the people. It’s an odd combination of English and probably a dozen different Asian languages and dialects, and people will intersperse non-English words into their English conversations. Now, we’re talking more than just saying “y’all” every once in a while.  Singlish permeates speech on every level, and is most common in casual conversation. Saying “lah” and “leh” is as common as taking a breath – but why do they do it? Lords knows I don’t want to say something unwittingly inappropriate and be the outcast of the teachers’ lounge.To try to learn more, I’ve done a little research and have found some helpful websites. I think my best bet, though, will be camping out in a hawker stall an eavesdropping on the locals!


a hawker stall in Bugis Village



  1. What do Lah and leh mean?

  2. What are the other teachers like? Are they Brits? You love those people.

  3. Make sure you’re subtle with your eavesdropping! I don’t want anyone to mistake you for an American spy!

    And “singlish?!” … “odd combination of English and probably a dozen different Asian languages and dialects” … good thing that doesn’t sound complicated to learn.

    Maybe you can incorporate some of the French you’ve learned and develope your own language to teach the young children of Singapore — “Fringlish.”

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