Characteristics of the unique creole English "Singlish"

Creole English: "Singlish"

September 14, 2016

Add to Hatena Bookmark

The multiracial country Singapore is home to various ethnic groups such as Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian, and subsequently many languages are spoken such as Chinese, Tamil, and English, in addition to the native language Malay. Among them, Singapore English known as "Singlish" plays the role of a common language. This article describes the characteristics of "Singlish" that truly is a "creole English" shaped over time to suit people from numerous ethnic backgrounds.

Unique "Singlish" pronunciation that is difficult for the untrained ear

It is reasonable to expect different accents and pronunciations in English in different regions. As American English, British English, and Australian English all differ from each other, Singlish also has its unique way of pronunciation. However, the more the listener is used to American English or British English, the more difficult it is to distinguish Singlish at times. However, it might help you to understand it even when you cannot pick up the sound if you know the Singlish specific pronunciation pattern.

Omitting final consonants

Final consonant clusters such as "p", "t", "k", "b", "d", and "g" are lost, which is a characteristic found in Native Malay, Hokkien, and Cantonese.

Ticket -> ti-ke
Car park -> ca-pa
One hundred -> wa-hah

Pronunciation of [th]

We are taught in school to pronounce [th] with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth; however, [th] is pronounced as [t] when it is voiceless, or [d] when voiced.

Thing -> Ting
Think -> Tink
Three -> Tree
They ->Dey

Separating words without liaison

Words in Singlish never liaise. Each word is pronounced separately. It might sound more like Chinese than English if you are not used to hearing it.

Characteristics of the "Singlish" grammar

Thanks to the influence of Chinese and Native Malay, grammar with which all English learners struggle is simplified in Singlish.

Single verb tense

Verbs do not change forms by the time such as the past and future. The tense is indicated by adding an adverb or other words that may suggest the time.

I meet him yesterday. (I met him yesterday.)
I have a meeting tomorrow morning. (I will have a meeting tomorrow morning.)

No plurals

There is no need to worry whether you should add "-s" or "-es" to make a plural noun.

No third-party

She need three book. (She needs three books.)

Singlish eases the burden for the people who are hesitant to speak English because they want to speak correct English. Some may feel Singlish handier to gain the linguistic intuition through hands-on communications rather than through the English study method in Japan that places great emphasis on grammar.

Distinctively "Singlish"! "-lah" at the end of the sentence

Adding "-lah" at the end of the sentence to expresses "it is" or "all right?" is one of the typical characteristics of Singlish. It is said to be an influence of Native Malay or Hokkien. The usage is simple.

OK lah! (It's OK!)
Never mind lah. (Do not worry, all right?)

"OK lah!" is very popular and a typical example of Singlish. Also, "No problem, lah?" means "There is no problem, is there?" when it is pronounced with rising intonation. It is very easy. Give it a try when it seems appropriate depending on the scene and your relationships with the counterpart.

Knowing your counterpart's English in advance

Ability to communicate in English is increasingly in demand as the volume of international trading using English grows. While it is important to perfect your English, you should also remember that languages may differ between regions and cultural areas. You will enjoy much smoother communication if you know the characteristics of English your counterpart would speak in advance.

Related Services

Add to Hatena Bookmark
<< Developing "Global Human Resources" through Compulsory English Activities in Elementary Schools Process and Points of Consideration for Translation Publishing >>

To Contact Us Regarding Our Translation Services

For urgent needs, call:

Back to Top