Singlish in Singapore
Head anywhere in the world and when you hear someone speaking English with a familiar twang, peppered with “lah”, “leh”, and “loh”, you can almost be certain that the person is speaking Singlish, and confirm is a Singaporean.
Just last week, our fellow citizens took to forums to deplore the use of Singlish in a formal context. (Aiyo, why must so serious until like that?)
The debate came about after public transport operator Tower Transit introduced a new double-decker bus with three doors as part of a 6-month trial by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) with signs that included Singlish headlines.
The eye-catching signs include “Here can charge phone!” and “Come in, come in, Singapore now got 3-door bus!”.
Some netizens were unhappy that Singlish was used for the signs, saying that it was unnecessary to promote the use of Singlish. But if you take another look at the signs, beneath the Singlish headlines are information and instructions in proper english.
Frankly, I don’t see why we shouldn’t promote Singlish. If it is something that helps us identify ourselves as Singaporeans, then why not?
Angmohs Caucasians come to Singapore and some of them use “lahs” and “lohs” as a novel way of speaking, so why should we frown upon the use of Singlish especially since this is in the name of fun and catching “eyeballs”?
Yes, I would question the use of Singlish in a formal official document and cringe if my Prime Minister continuously speaks in Singlish the entire National Day Rally. But if it’s peppered with Singlish phrases and words every now and then, it would be quite refreshing to hear it.
In our schools, most of our pupils are able to code-switch between Singlish and standard English, Speaking in Singlish in normal conversations and maybe switching the English when speaking with their English language teacher. So the question is: Is that wrong? Should we punish pupils who converse in Singlish? If we don’t, then why deplore the use of Singlish in advertisements or commercials?
In fact, the Education Ministry said last year that “Singlish words should be used only appropriately, usually in direct speech”, in composition writing. Meaning to say that a student will not be penalised for using Singlish in an appropriate way.
Of course, not everyone has the innate ability to code-switch effortlessly between proper English and Singlish. This is where appropriate education for students come in. Teachers could then help students to identify where it is appropriate to use Singlish words or phrases as part of composition writing.
We often ask ourselves what makes us Singaporeans and bind us together as one. If speaking it allows us to be better understood regardless of race and language, then perhaps Singlish is the “glue” that binds us together as one.
I finish typing already, who want to go lim kopi later? Don’t say #bojio!
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