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  • Hey everyone! This is Benny from Fluent in 3 months!

  • And I am talking to you today from Singapore!

  • I've invited Jade to tell me a little bit about Singlish.

  • So, what is Singlish?

  • I would say Singlish is something like a pidgin language.

  • That mixes a lot of the local languages,

  • like some Chinese dialect: Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien,

  • As well as Malay, and a little bit of Tamil and Hindi, and whatever you have here.

  • And of course Singlish is short for Singapore English.

  • It has its basis in English.

  • And how is it viewed by locals?

  • I know that in some situations, people may frown upon using it even though its a genuine language in its own right.

  • So what's the reception it gets from different kinds of people?

  • I would say that Singlish is not exactly a formalised language.

  • It's not the kind of language that you'll want to use in a business setting, or a professional situation.

  • It's something that we use when we're speaking with friends,

  • like an informal situation where we're buying something in the market.

  • That's the kind of language that we'd use to avoid sounding really posh or

  • like what we say, "atas", which means kind of elitist.

  • Like if you speak perfect English in some situation that doesn't warrant or require it, you'd seem pretentious.

  • So Singlish is a way to get down to the local level,

  • getting down to earth and relate and bond with the locals.

  • Yea OK.

  • And if someone like myself were moving to Singapore, would it be strange for me to try to speak Singlish?

  • Or would people just adjust to my benefit or would it be more respectful for me to try to use the slang?

  • I would say that Singaporeans would find it amusing when foreigners try to speak Singlish,

  • they wouldn't take offence unless you make fun of it.

  • But we don't really need that, because most Singaporeans, or I would say all Singaporeans,

  • we are formally educated in English.

  • So we would have no problems, unless you have a heavy accent.

  • Some of us do have problems with the Australian accent, or some of the more obscure British accents, like Sherlock Holmes(?)

  • So unless you have a really heavy accent, most Singaporeans would understand English pretty well, so you don't really have to adjust.

  • Except maybe for the older generations, or some of those who are slightly less educated,

  • you might have to go a little slow.

  • Some people might taken offence if you go very Singlish on them on purpose.

  • Like "You mean I can't speak real English now?"

  • It really depends, just go normal English, like the standard English first,

  • and just adjust accordingly if you have to, but there's really no need for that.

  • Alright, and in terms of the language itself, I was reading up a little about it,

  • I found it very interesting that what you said,

  • the influences from Malay, Hokkien and other languages.

  • From what I've learnt from Mandarin, I know that Mandarin didn't directly influence any part of it,

  • because other Chinese dialects have influences.

  • There's a little bit of familiarity that I'm starting to see, like word formations.

  • Maybe you can help elaborate on it,

  • For instance if you wanted to ask a Yes or No question, how does that work?

  • For me, being born and bred in Singapore, it comes really natural to me.

  • I don't think about it the way you do, the way you analyse it word for word.

  • For me it just comes like that.

  • I think you use very much of Chinese influenced grammar structure,

  • and you add English words and other words in to make it work.

  • Let me give an example...

  • Like you'd add "meh", when asking a question.

  • You give a positive sentence, and add a "meh", it becomes a question.

  • And that would be similar to the Mandarin word "Ma"

  • Actually for "Meh", the exact sound comes from Cantonese.

  • So if you came from Hong Kong or some place that speaks Cantonese,

  • If you want to ask someone, "Can you really do that?"

  • "You can do that meh!?"

  • So you add to "You can do that", which is a positive statement, then "Meh" at the end,

  • You'd also express a little bit of disbelief.

  • There's this nuance that you get just by adding the "Meh"

  • Because when you say "You can do that?" "Do you think you can do that?" or "Are you sure you can do that?"

  • But with the "Meh", you can even add the idea of uncertainty.

  • The idea of "Are you sure you can do that?"

  • but you'd just say "You can do that meh?" with that look on your face.

  • You'd just get that somebody thinks you can't do it.

  • It's actually a very colourful and vibrant language in the sense that it's very economised,

  • It's very short, yet just with the tones and nuances you can get a lot of emotions.

  • Are there any loanwords which you keep the tones in them?

  • I would say that Singlish is a rather monotonous language.

  • It doesn't respect the English intonations.

  • Because you bring in so many different languages, you'd just go with it.

  • I wouldn't necessarily call it monotonous, its just different emphasis.

  • English is a stress emphasized language.

  • When I'm speaking in English, I emphasize certain parts of the sentence.

  • From what I've seen, Singlish is a syllable emphasizing language,

  • so you actually will pronounce each syllable clearly.

  • It would be rather choppy,

  • it sounds choppy to an English speaker.

  • So it can sound rather monotonous.

  • But if you come from our angle, I would say it's really natural.

  • Yeah of course.

  • It's really colourful, when you hear it.

  • Some people would ask me, "Are you speaking some language from India?"

  • And I'm like, "No!"

  • But it does sound like its really animated and exotic.

  • It's impossible to summarise the language in 5 minutes.

  • But if you glance online there are so many words that are used differently.

  • Like "Action" ?

  • Ah, "Don't be so action leh!" -Okay

  • If you're someone who likes to show-off, for the sake of it.

  • There's no meaning for it, you're being "action"

  • Someone who overacts.

  • And another one I saw was "Arrow"?

  • Ah. Let's say in a professional situation...

  • In a social situation, when someone is required to do an unpleasant task.

  • Nobody wants to do it.

  • So usually you would get "arrowed" to do it, someone would volunteer your services. We would say that.

  • It kind of means that you got shot by an arrow.

  • Exactly. That's the thing.

  • To get accustomed to the language, you'd have to see how all of these different words are used in a unique way.

  • Like you said, it's really colourful, it gives this unique quality.

  • It is a pity that it's frowned upon. Institutions have this policy of "Speak proper English"?

  • Yes.

  • How do people feel about that?

  • It's their language, and it's how they're comfortable with speaking it.

  • What's the reaction to someone saying you're not speaking properly.

  • Like I see this as two different entities.

  • You can code-switch between speaking standard English for work purposes,

  • and speaking Singlish with your friends.

  • How do people look at that?

  • I like the way you brought up this term, code-switching.

  • It's very important in Singapore's context.

  • In official situations it's definitely frowned upon.

  • You wouldn't want to speak Singlish unless you can't help it.

  • Some people really can't help it.

  • It's very important in official situations to be able to speak good English.

  • But I would say with friends and families, in casual situations, we definitely speak Singlish.

  • In fact most of us would go Singlish.

  • It's just the going back part, back to professional, good English that may be an issue for some people.

  • Because not everyone is so flexbile in that sense.

  • Some people tend to think that Singlish is good English.

  • Sometimes the line is really fine.

  • There's really like, gangster's Singlish.

  • And then there's that slight Singlish.

  • It's a spectrum, not like a Singlish-English.

  • Singlish is here and then you have English there.

  • Some people are kind of in the middle, and it's very difficult for you to code switch when you are right in the middle.

  • You'd tend to bring in some words and it just flows over, and you don't come back to the right English.

  • That can become a problem because some people find that you don't...

  • Some people feel that you don't sound educated when you go Singlish all the time.

  • That said, a lot of educated people speak Singlish - Yea of course.

  • It has nothing to do with social stature or where you come from.

  • It's very much in our hearts.

  • It's very important to know when to use Singlish and when to use English.

  • It's not actually correct to say "good" English, because that way you imply that Singlish is bad English.

  • Which is totally not true.

  • We had this thing called the "Speak Good English Campaign"

  • it kind of implied that some people here are speaking bad English,

  • but there's a difference between bad English, like if you don't know your grammar and expressions, and speaking Singlish.

  • So that dichotomy really needs to be well explained,

  • and someone, hopefully Singaporean, needs to stand out and say that we should give Singlish the respect it deserves.

  • And then do something about people who don't speak the right kind of English.

  • Yes I'm here for several days, and I'm actually looking forward to hearing more Singlish.

  • Because I was here a few years ago, and just hearing it, it's this very interesting collection.

  • Like Singapore in itself, a mixture cultures, and of languages.

  • All of the notices you see are in 4 languages.

  • So I feel like what you said, Singlish is the heart of Singaporeans.

  • I do highly recommend people to show a little bit of interest in place that they're visiting.

  • I mean you would always been understood if you were to speak standard English.

  • But it's very different.

  • I really appreciate when people come to Ireland, and they start using Irish English.

  • It's a different situation, because we're talking about a dialect versus a pidgin language or a creole language.

  • But it shows me that English is not just for communicating, but they are actually trying to learn the langauge to connect with people.

  • If I were to stay here longer, I would definitely be diving so much more into it,

  • I would try to show respect, I wouldn't doing that to make fun.

  • I would be doing it to show people that I actually care about having them speak naturally to me.

  • That's what langauges is all about at the end of the day.

  • Yes.

  • Alright thank you very much for the very interesting discussion, really appreciate it Jade!

  • Thank you Benny.

  • Take care everybody!

Hey everyone! This is Benny from Fluent in 3 months!

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