Why Singlish is So Efficient

Singaporeans are efficient people, and prefer to take less time and words to express themselves.

Singlish is the creole version of English spoken in Singapore. Much of its grammatical structure comes from Chinese and a lot of its emphasis words (“lah”, “leh”, “meh”) come from Chinese and Malay languages. It is spoken super-fast, and super-compressed.

“Me go now, wait for you, lah?”
“Can anot?” (Will you or won’t you?)

When time is money, we really can’t afford to spend time on those extra syllables when it is possible to get our meaning across with far fewer words.

The many uses for the word “Can”.

With the help of the famous Singlish suffixes.

can

When time is really limited, please use “ah”.

The Versatility of the ‘ah’ sound with the help of intonations.
ah

N.B: ‘ah’ is also inserted between topic and comment to give a negative tone:
“This minion ah, always so naughty one!”

More Phrases

cowl

EnglishSinglish
Where do I go to collect my luggage?Go where take bag, ah?
You mean chewing gum is prohibited in Singapore?Gum cannot, meh?
I’m being fined? Oh dear.Kena saman? Die, lah.
What shall we have for dinner this evening?Tonight eat what, ah?
I’m open to suggestions.Anything also can.
Do you have a reservation?You early-early call, not?
Yes, it’s reserved under the name “Tan”.My name ‘Tan’!
This way to your table, please.Come!
What would you recommend?Here got what, ah?
Would you recommend this dish?This dish good or not, ah?
It’s all right.Not bad, lah.
The steak here is exceptional.Here the steak is tok kong.
Would you care to sample our desserts?You want dessert?
May I have the bill, please?(mime signing of cheque)
Next time, I’d rather eat at a hawker center.Go hawker centre better!
I’m afraid that we don’t have any more of that blue dress you want, miss.Sorry, out of stock.
Would you have the dress in another colour, then?Got what other colour har?
The Manchester United players were not up to standard today. It was a waste of mytime watching them.Man U kana sai! Waste my time only!
Excuse me, could you please keep quiet? I’m trying to concentrate over here.Oi, shaddup can?
The shopping malls are all closed and the restaurants are all full. What do you propose we do?So how?
I didn’t really like the movie. I found it rather uninteresting.Wah lau, the movie damn sian.
I can’t help but notice that you’ve been staring at me for the past few minutes. Isanything the matter?See what see?
Prices at this restaurant have increased, I don’t remember it being so high the last time I dined here.Wah! How come so ex one?

20 Comments

  1. Joanna Tan said:

    Hahaha.. I tried covering the right hand side to re-phrase the left hand side..80% right.. true blue singaporean. No doubt we sound funny and our english might not make sense to most people frm other countries but thats why we are unique too! 🙂 (steady boon pee pee lah!)

    29/03/2014
  2. YC Mun said:

    If someone are able to speak or communicate to outside world effectively in good American or English language, and also able to communicate like Singlish, Malglish, Inglish, Philglish and so on to those who can’t speak well in that languages, if use with wisely than what wrong with it? Like our local artists said don’t play play ah! He’s very effective in this area.
    When time is money and you do business with those are poor command in that language, and they don’t understand what you means, it is wasting your time!
    Note: This comment bears no ill intentions.

    30/03/2014
  3. Shawn Wee said:

    'can or not?' isn't actually grammatically correct

    31/03/2014
  4. Zaibun Nesa said:

    Lol…that's our unique Singlish….3 in 1 – Chinese, Malay n Indian

    01/04/2014
  5. To be fair… us native English speakers don't usually expand as much either. At least among our peers. Example: "The shopping malls are all closed and the restaurants are all full. What do you propose we do?" would more likely be "Everything's closed, what now?". Just one example.

    I know "so how?" is much shorter still… but not my point. We drag things out only to clarify to people that more than likely wouldn't understand.

    03/04/2014
  6. Vichit Sadettan said:

    A gentleman entered a restaurant. A young waitress attended him. Gent: 2 ko lah! Waitress: Yes, Sir. She brought him 2 Cokes. Actually what the gentleman said was: Too cold lah! The waitress should've turned down the air conditioning fan or set the temperature higher!

    16/12/2014
  7. "Bahasa" = language. So, if you mean, "Malay" just say "Malay" or "Malay Language" / Bahasa Melayu. Don't say or ask "Do you speak "bahasa"?" I'd answer: "Which bahasa?"!

    07/08/2015