*SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM FOR THE SINGLISH TOPICS MENU*

      English-speaking foreign visitors to this global city state would understandably consider this kind of speech surprisingly unfamiliar and perhaps even extremely cringeworthy. However, reactions from others can vary between being simply amused and unbearably irritated, depending on their own cultural conditioning and outlook.

      The speech commonly heard is a mutated form of English evolved through habitual usage. Its main characteristic is the sound of a distinctive and easily recognizable local accent. Uttered sentences are a verbal concoction of English words generously interspersed with what sound like unintelligible jargon taken straight from one or more of the local dialects. English words used are often pronounced rather sloppily with little or no regard for how they are spelt. Variations of expression among different groups exist, though. Typically, the speech is so ungrammatical and structurally convulated to a Western foreigner's ears that an interpreter would always be a welcome and amusing presence.

      Although the use of  'Singlish' is understandably frowned upon in circles where impeccable English is called for, such as in business settings, it is not uncommon to find local English-speaking and staunchly yuppie types, who may themselves be experts in the syntactical aspects of the King's English, or who may have themselves acquired and delight in a few volumes of Shakespeare's works lining their private shelves, engaging unabashedly in no-holds-barred liberal rounds of this pidgin talk among themselves in classy executive entertainment lounges, for example. It is not uncommon for such locals to reserve a grammatically, idiomatically and tonally sound version of English - a utilitarian practice commonly referred to as 'mode-switching' or 'code-switching' - for use when they are speaking with English-oriented Westerners.

      Generally though, the degree of severity of corruption of English varies from group to group, depending on the speakers' educational and ethnic background, and perhaps philosophical outlook. Use of 'Singlish' in its most extreme form is particularly prevalent among bilingual heartlanders, who normally also use Chinese or one of its various dialects freely in the home and during normal social interaction. To these 'Singlish' speakers, it can be argued that the grammar, structure and style of their speech cannot be faulted, especially when considered in the context of their mother tongue and in view of the fact that the local population consists of a diverse multi-ethnic and multi-cultural mix which have existed since the British colonial days. Viewed thus, many would seriously regard 'Singlish' as a language subset on its own rather than anything else.

      Much has been done in certain circles where 'Singlish' is considered undesirable in an unending but practically futile battle to eradicate or marginalize its present widespread use and replace it with an acceptable level of English proficiency, the latter of which is referred to in official circles as standard English.

      Fortunately, tourists from native English-speaking countries of the Western world usually accept with visible amusement and graciousness this apparently peculiar local manner of speech as an interesting aspect of the local culture during and after their visit to this unique and culturally diverse tourism gem of the Far East. They will relish the uniqueness of the 'Singlish'-speaking local as much as they would relish the uniqueness of say, a native tribesman in some remote parts of the interesting world. After all, any well-travelled Westerner can find that such pidgin or creole talk is by no means unique to Singapore. Many a Western expatriate who had stayed for an extended period of time in the heartlands of the island, either for the purpose of academic research or otherwise, had also come to speak 'good' 'Singlish', and are presumably delighted with their acquired skill.

      English-speaking foreign visitors will also find it not necessary to carry a "Singlish Phrasebook" as, unlike in many European countries for example, almost all locals of all ages here, partly by virtue of the nations's British colonial heritage, understand at least some common English words and expressions. Thus, visits to the heartland areas of Singapore and communicating with the heartlanders should be a generally pleasurable experience. The most likely problem to be encountered may be those arising out of Westerners' native accents, which ordinary heartlanders usually find to be the biggest barrier to communication with the foreigners.

      Though many have relentlessly argued for the discontinuation of this form of language, it can be reasonably expected that its use will continue indefinitely, at least until future generations perhaps stop using dialects or other non-English languages in addition to speaking English. Indeed, it may be that future generations of locals can well be expected to be 'bilingual' in the use of 'Singlish' as well as 'standard' English, or for that matter, any other acquired language. And on a more serious note, aside from learning standard English for utilitarian purposes, Singlish may well turn out to be the very tool needed to foster or enhance social cohesion, particularly in view of the diverse lingual composition of the population. Everyone being able to 'speak the same lingo' is undoubtedly a plus factor in this regard.

The fictional titter-tatter conversations in this section are intended to offer readers and visitors some idea of the spoken language likely to be encountered among various local heartlanders in everyday life on the island.
(Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer.)

 Warning: 'Singlish' can be addictive. 
If you do not wish to pick up 'Singlish', please browse other sections of this site.
 

Some Commonly Heard 'Singlish' Terms and Phrases...

Lelong A sale at a discount, cheap sale or auction.
Angmo A term which refers to Caucasian persons.
Singkie A local-born person. A less-used (written) version among some is "Sinkie", which ostensibly has a negative or derogatory connotation.
Bang, Bang Balls To feel frustration or angst.
Hah? A supposedly polite expression used in conversation to elicit a repetition of something said. It is also used to express disgust, as in the expression "say that again?".
Goondu A dunce or someone who has done something unwise. Among close friends or close peers, it is often used as an expression of implicit endearment.
Coy A term commonly used by illiterate locals to mean a commercial company.
Ah Beng A term used by locals to describe other local males who are deemed 'unsophisticated' in outlook and apparel and presumably not very knowledgeable. (The feminine equivalent of this term is 'Ah Lian').
Ah Lau A somewhat derogatory term for 'an old person'.
Helicopter, Edicotter A term used to describe someone who has little knowledge of English.
Angmo Pai A term used to describe locals who are English-educated.
Alamak, Ayah, Walau Spontaneous utterances expressing surprise, disappointment, or disapproval.
Adoi, Ayoh Milder utterances similar to 'Alamak', more often heard from women.
Charsiew Roast Pork (in strips). The term is often used to describe an ungrateful offspring who mistreats or abuses his/her own parent. The term is derived from the parental notion that producing a piece of meat is better than a bad offspring.
Horsepeter Hospital.
Lay Chey Troublesome or inconvenient, when referring to tasks or procedures.
Gahmen The Government.
Kopi Tiam A traditional cafe usually intergrated with hawker foodstalls and often serving soft liquor.
Makan Food or the act of eating.
Paper A contextual reference to paper qualifications or educational certificates.
Peepur People.
Badminton As in "pattern more than badminton", used to describe a buffoon person who displays unusual antics, it being alluding to the varied styles of play in the game of badminton, often with subtle erotic connotation.
Slang, Slang-slang To adopt or imitate a Westerners's native accent when speaking in good English, aka twang.
Shiok, Song Pleasurable feeling.
Siong, Teruk, Jialat, Sian Terms used to describe difficulty when faced with an unbearable experience.
Yang or Sayang An endearing term used in addressing acquaintances and friends.
Yaya Arrogant or conceited.
Chiobu An attractive young female.
Dinobu An unattractive, presumably overweight female.
Nabay A common swear word.
Outsai Outside.
Neh Never.