I was watching the blogtv.sg episode on the use of Singlish and the guest stars were (the infamous) Ris Low, Sebastian Tan and 2 angmohs whom I don’t know. Listening to Ris Low and Sebastian Tan speaking Singlish got me thinking – are there any grammar rules when it comes to speaking Singlish? I think there are… so here’s my personal guide to understanding and speaking proper Singlish.
Singlish can be categorised into 3 main parts as follows:
1) Singlish Vocabulary
The first is the use of an eclectic mix of words borrowed from Malay, Mandarin and a host of Chinese dialects. In order to understand Singlish, you must first build up your Singlish vocabulary. There’re many sites devoted to the introduction of Singlish words but for starters, you can check this site out.
2) Swopping of Nouns & Verbs/Adverbs
When a Singlish statement is delivered mainly in English, verbs and adverbs are often ignored and the noun is used instead. For example, instead of saying, “have you eaten?”, the Singlish speaker may say, “you got eat or not?”. Another example would be, “he’s damn drama lor” instead of “he’s very dramatic!”.
The opposite is true for a non-English word with no verb form. These words are often anglicised by the creation of a verb form. For example, instead of saying, “I couldn’t stop staring at her”, the Singlish speaker will say, “I couldn’t stop bio-ing her” (“bio” means to look/stare/check out).
3) Replacement of Punctuation Marks
This must be the most misunderstood part about Singlish. Non-Singlish speakers often ask what’s the meaning/purpose of “words” or sounds such as “lah”, “leh”, “meh”, “hor”, “lor” and so on. Many Singaporeans will tell you that these words carry no meaning but I beg to differ! These “words” actually tell you if the speaker was making a statement, asking a question, etc. To put it simply, you can think of these “words” as punctuation marks. This list isn’t exhaustive but should be sufficient to illustrate my point.
“Lah” denotes ‘.’
“Leh” denotes ‘…’
“Meh” denotes ‘?’
“Hor” denotes ‘?’
“Lor” denotes ‘!’
With the above in mind, you can actually interpret what the writer/speaker is saying even without any punctuation! Let me give you some examples:
“I don’t know which is right lah”
“I can’t make up my mind leh”
“So simple you don’t know meh”
“This colour nice hor”
“Up to you lor”
And that’s my concise guide to understanding and speaking proper Singlish. Easy to understand hor?
P.S I don’t think Ris Low speaks Singlish… hers is a mere clumsy stringing of what she perceives to be English words. Super cannot make it. Cannot tahan leh…