A year ago today I relocated to Singapore, half the globe, all way from my beloved home New York. While considering relocation to Asia, I chose Singapore and Hong Kong for an obvious reason, English-speaking countries. Didn’t I?

I had a huge allergic reaction to Singlish. Period. Simple understanding of Singlish is Singaporean + English, similar to Chinglish (Chinese + English) or Japanglish (Japanese + English). The formal definition of Singlish is a “language” mix of English, Chinese (Hokkien), Malay and local expressions. According to Wiki, Singlish is the English-based creole or patois spoken colloquially in Singapore. While Chinglish and Japanglish seem, at least to my knowledge, only a mixture of two languages, Singlish relies on strong local accent. I myself speak and write Japanglish to those who command both languages depending on context makes sense to me, but never pronounce English with Japanese accent, or vice verse.

After living in English speaking countries for a half of my life, the first time ever I felt I am someone who does not understand English. This puts me in total insecure mode, feeling that locals are speaking a secret language that they do not want me to understand what they are talking about…or badmouth about me? Yea, low self-esteem, right? Even though they are not badmouthing, how many times I had to ask what they want from me, countless! Frustrations mounted at both ends. In addition to Singlish, Singaporeans’ thought process was another challenge that took me double the time to accomplish interactions. Well, let’s hold on that for another post later.

Fortunately, you will get used to their accent. A skillful person can imitate their accent and switch back and forth. I never. I was recently away from the country for several weeks. And I went through the shorter version assimilation to Singlish again.

If you’re on the way to Singapore, prepare yourself!

Some of useful Singlish:

  • lah [lah] Singlish term used at the end of words or phrases for emphasis. *leh; lor
  • ang.mor [ang-moh] Hokkien described for Caucasians or white people
  • for.a.zum.per [four-air-zamper] Singlish pronunciation of for example
  • [gah-men] Singlish pronunciation of government
  • fren [fren] Singlish term of to befriend
  • kopi [koh-pee] Hokkien translation of coffee
  • the [tay] Malay translation of tea

Thanks for stopping by!


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