I frequently find myself slipping in Singlish* these days. OK, my vocabulary and syntax aren’t so hot. (I still don’t know whether I should punctuate a sentence with “lah” or “leh” or “lor” given the choice.) And I know I don’t get the language’s prosody just right.
My Singaporean friends tend to speak to me in Standard English while code switching amongst each other. (Don’t think I haven’t noticed!) So, save for an odd conversation now and then with a Taxi Uncle or Hawker Centre Aunty, I don’t get to practice much.
So, dear Singaporean or Singapore-based readers, help a sister out. What Singlish words or phrases should I master? Most recently, I’ve picked up “siao,” “atas,” and “boleh.”
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* For the uninitiated, Singlish is an English-based creole whose vocabulary of consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, and Tamil. It, like other patois, is a living tongue and continues to evolve. It’s rich with history, culture, capital, and identity.
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Read an excellent essay on modern Singlish, “Variations on a Theme of Singlish” by Huishan Aprilene Goh, at POSKOD.sg.