Saturday, April 2, 2011

Singlish, lah

Singapore has four official languages:  English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.  English is the administrative language, and the other three respect the cross-cultural demographics of Singapore, representing the three largest ethnic groups in the population.  When one first arrives, as an English language speaker, you may not be able to comprehend the conversations around you.  However, with a keen ear you will come to realize that English is quite prevalent, but in variation-- Singlish, the Singapore dialect.
Certain expressions are used to which we are not accustomed--  "can" may replace "yes" when responding to a question.  And most common, the expression "Lah" may be added to the end of sentences for added emphasis.  For example, "Your are late, lah!".  Here is some help if you want to understand "talking cock" (boisterous speech) in Singlish.  Learning and understanding Singlish is possible after some time, and some expats can become very adept.
Singaporeans are generally very calm and peaceful.  So it was rather unusual to witness a loud argument between two men in front of a shop, during a recent visit to Chinatown.  Apparently the shop owner had expelled a customer from his shop for "disturbing the other customers".  I'm not sure what this meant.  The Singlish started flying back and forth, and concluded with the finale of "F*%# you, lah" and the response, "No, F*%# you,lah!"  No real translation required.

1 comment:

  1. Is it bad that I am laughing??????? Just visualizing that argument! The 'lah's' send me..