Sunday, August 7, 2022

Language & Phrasebook in Singapore

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Although Malay is designated as the “national” language in the constitution, English is the most commonly spoken language among Singaporeans under the age of 50, with varied degrees of proficiency. Most Asian neighbors speak English far better than we do. Except for mother language topics like as Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil, which are also compulsory to be studied in school by Singaporeans, standard British English is also the medium of teaching in schools. It is not unusual for younger Singaporeans to consider English to be their first language. Furthermore, all government signs and papers are printed in English, with British terminology and spelling used in most cases. Some older individuals may not be able to communicate in English, but you will nearly always be able to locate someone who does. Although the English used in Singapore is primarily based on British English, owing to the prevalence of American pop culture, American English is also commonly understood.

However, since it includes slang terms and phrases from other languages, such as different Chinese dialects, Malay, and Tamil, as well as English words whose pronunciation or meaning has been altered, the unique local patois Singlish may be difficult to comprehend at times. Due to the majority of the original speakers being Chinese, it has an unusual method of constructing phrases. Complex consonant clusters are simplified, articles and plurals are dropped, verb tenses are replaced with adverbs, questions are rewritten in Chinese grammar, and non-English particles are added (especially the infamous “lah”)

Most younger Singaporeans, however, are capable of speaking what the government refers to as “excellent English” when required, thanks to national language instruction programs. To prevent unintended offence, start with normal English and only switch to simplified pidgin if it becomes clear that the other person is unable to understand you. Attempt to avoid the urge to use needless Singlishisms in your speech. If you do it well, it will make you chuckle, but if you do it incorrectly, it will seem patronizing. And since most Singaporeans, particularly the younger and more educated, can communicate well in English in most settings, learning Singlish is not required, even during extended visits.

Mandarin Chinese and Tamil are Singapore’s additional official languages. Most younger Singaporean Chinese speak Mandarin, whereas most Indians speak Tamil. Although all Singaporean Chinese are taught standard Mandarin in school, Mandarin spoken in Singapore has developed into a unique creole, including terms from other Chinese dialects, Malay, and English. Various Chinese dialects (mostly Hokkien, though significant numbers also speak Teochew and Cantonese) are also spoken among ethnic Chinese of the same dialect group, though their use has been declining in the younger generation since the 1980s due to government policies encouraging the use of Mandarin over dialects. Other Indian languages are also spoken, such as Punjabi among the Sikhs.

The simplified script used in mainland China is the official Chinese script used in Singapore. As a result, all government documents (including local media) and signage are written in simplified Chinese, which is also taught in schools. Traditional writing is still preferred by some of the older generation, and the prevalence of Hong Kong and Taiwanese pop culture means that it is also known to younger people.

All government services must be provided in all four official languages, according to the legislation.

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