When I go buy groceries at the wet market, sometimes it’s hard to understand the shopkeepers even though we’re all speaking English. The shopkeepers are speaking more of the Singaporean-style English, AKA Singlish.
Singapore is a huge melting pot culturally and has a diverse population of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other ethnicities. The national language is Malay but there are four official languages: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English. Singlish is the unofficial language that consists of colloquial phrases from various dialects.
Here are a few things I’ve picked up so far:
- Lah: people use this to emphasize their statement
“Just buy a drink, lah!”
Still unclear… The difference between “lah,” “lor,”, and “leh”
- Aiyah: can mean “oh no” if you’re upset or impatient
“Aiyah, I missed the bus!”
- Blur: when someone is confused
“She didn’t read the book before class so she was very blur.”
- Pai seh: embarassed (pronounced pie-say)
“I forgot her name again. It was very pai seh.”
- Uncle / Aunty: not a new word, but it’s a way to address your elders respectfully when in a taxi or ordering food
- Outside standing: not sure if this is actually Singlish? It means outstanding
“She scored 100% on her test. Very outside standing.”
Still super new to all this so I’ll keep updating new phrases as I become assimilated!