Yesterday, Singapore celebrated their 52nd Birthday. Majulah, Singapore!
To join in their commemoration of their National Day, I decided to write about one of the things that makes the country uniquely Singapore …….is their language. It was a relief when I moved her 5 years ago that majority of Singaporeans speak English. So conversing with them and go about town was easier as compared to say living in say, Japan, Korea, France, etc.
But if you listen to Singaporeans speak you may say they are speaking English in a distinct Singaporean accent but if you listen long enough, you may realize you might not understand some words uttered. So again you wondered, Are they really speaking in English? That my friend is their unique brand of language: Singlish.
Singlish is a English-based patois colloquially spoken in Singapore. Being an multi-racial country, their sentences are wonderfully intermixed with Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and other dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew.
Do you speak Singaporean English?
I remember a elderly male patient ask me that in one of consultation sessions in the clinic. I paused. I told him, I don’t. I don’t claim that I am an expert in Singlish nor am I able to duplicate their manner of enunciating their different brand of language unlike some of my fellow kababayans who are able to do it with skillful mastery. But I am grateful for having local Singaporean friends who speaks freely without editing their sentences for my convenience in pure Singlish. I love that through that I am able to learn more Singlish words/phrase which occasionally used in my conversations with them.
Most sentences would end with a lah, leh, meh or lor/hor. Using these does not change the semantic meaning of the sentence but often use more to indicating emphasis or pragmatic functions. Some are also pure English phrases that has a distinct meaning to Singaporeans like, ‘Don’t Play Play’ , Go Fly Kite (means, Piss Off or F**ck Off) and many more. It is also better spoken in shorter sentences like, “Waa, that’s so ex! (Meaning, Wow that is so expensive!) Or Why liddat? (Meaning, Why are you like that?) Or even prefer to use acronym like CB (meaning Chio Bu — pretty lady) or CMI (meaning Cannot Make It). Continuing their love for short but sweet conversation, some words are also like text-speak:
Oso – also
Liddat – like that
Den – then
Relak – relax
Here are a few other words that are often used:
Makan – Eat.
Tapao – Takeaway or Takeout
Tahan – tolerate
Siao – crazy idea by someone
Shiok – denoting extreme pleasure or stating something is of highest quality
Jialat- so difficult or troublesome
Paiseh – shy or embarrased
Sian – denotes boredom, weariness or frustration
Ang moh- a caucasian
Chope- To reserve or hold something for somebody
Alamak- An expression of dismay or alarm
Kaisu- afraid of losing or overly meticulous
Kaypoh- nosey person
Kan Cheong – nervous or anxious
Atas – high society, sophisticated
There you go. There are some Singlish words for you. It is a very interesting way of speaking with allows Singaporean to have their own secret language when they travel overseas. Thank you to my local Singaporean friends for teaching me some Singlish words and phrases. Do correct me if any of the above are incorrectly defined.
For those foreigners like me who has been living in Singapore, care to add more in the list I mention?