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The official languages of Singapore are Malay, (Mandarin) Chinese, Tamil and English. Malay is the national language and English is the language of the administrative apparatus. Mandarin Chinese is increasingly being used in place of Chinese dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese and Foochow. In addition to Tamil, languages such as Punjabi, Telegu, Hindi and Bengali are spoken by Indians. The government-led campaign to promote Mandarin Chinese has been successful. After independence, the government promoted bilingual education in Eastern languages. The use of English declined sharply. They soon came back to this, because English became the language of trade and government that in fact held all population groups together. In 1987 it became an official language of instruction in the schools. All children are now taught in their mother tongue in addition to English. This is done to prevent those populations from losing contact with their traditions.
Despite the emphasis placed on learning the official languages, a kind of general dialect has emerged over time, called “Singlish”. It is somewhat similar to English, but it also contains many linguistic elements of Chinese, Tamil and Malay. Furthermore, phrases are abbreviated, words are switched, and rhythm and stress are very remarkable.
Some typical examples are:
- inggrish - English
- looksee - look over there
- see first - wait and see what happens
- staedy lah - good! (lah is very often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize something)
- Go fly kite - get out of here
- Catch no ball - I don't understand.
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Beliën, H. / Maleisië : Singapore
Hellander, P. / Singapore
Oon, H. / Singapore
Ministry of Information and the Arts
Wee, J. / Singapore
Chelsea House Publishers
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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