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Colloquial Singaporean English, better known as Singlish, is an English-based creole language spoken in Singapore. It is one of two English dialects spoken in Singapore, the other being the higher variety Standard Singapore English. Singlish is used in informal contexts, where SSE is used in formal settings. Singlish has attained a bad reputation on the basis of campaigns against its usage. The government claim that Singlish has a negative impact on the standard of SSE (see linguistic interference). Opponents of such campaigns claim that speakers of both dialects are adept at code-switching.



English in Singapore derives from 141 years of British colonialization. The received standards of English during these years were British English and Received Pronunciation. Singlish developed as a pidgin form of English, spoken by those who acquired the language without formal institutional training. Over the years, Singlish has stabilized into a creole. Singlish is comparable to its Malaysian counterpart Manglish. The largest distincton between the two is their vocabulary - Manglish tends towards Bahasa Melayu slang, while Singlish vocabulary (and grammar) is distinctly influenced by Southern Chinese dialects.


Where SSE is used in formal contexts, Singlish is used in informal contexts - at home, with friends in a 'hawker centre'. Because of its lack of prestige, Singlish is generally avoided in formal contexts like meetings and interviews. However, select Singlish phrases are occasionally used to inject humour or build affinity in the audience, especially when a number of them are local.

The usage of Singlish in all contexts is strongly discouraged by the Government, who have stated that it is a 'bad' English that is incomprehensible to non-locals and stifles the proper learning and usage of English.

Some examples

  • Ah Mu or Ah Bu - in Hokkien is the name for Mother.
  • AngMoh - in local Singlish or Hokkien (literally with red hair) means a westerner.
  • Bear fight - when babies fight each other on the bed with pillows and bolster.
  • Chapalang - literally in Hokkien means people who had eaten their fill. This is abusively used to label certain people who are likely busybodies or gossipers. The normal greeting for all Hokkien people in Singapore or those compatriots in Taiwan and Mainland China always greet one another with "have you eaten your fill? " Chapa buay"? as one would say "Good Morning" in English. The old locals are a polite people and they always say "chapa buay?"
  • Chope - Singaporean slang for "reserved".
  • Garmen - Singaporean slang for "government".
  • Good-for-nothing - a rude way of telling someone. It is used as a catch phrase to try and draw someone's attention as in Singlish.
  • lah - a word filler as in Singlish.
  • wow-lah - same as wow-lau.

External links