Singapore is a multilingual country. There are four languages that are spoken in Singapore which include English, Tamil, Mandarin Chinese and Malay. Moreover, they have their localised version of English known as “Singlish”. They have a bilingual education policy, due to which most Singaporeans can speak more than one language and some are even fluent in three.
Following are the four languages that are commonly used in Singapore:
Malay is one of the official languages of Singapore. It was declared the national language in 1819 before the British took over to handle the indigenous culture of the country. Even the national anthem of Singapore is in Malay, which in Singapore is called Bahasa Melayu.
Another official language of Singapore is Chinese. It is also called the Singaporean Chinese, Huayu or Mandarin. This language is based on the Beijing dialect. The simplified version of written Chinese is also used for writing purposes. Three-quarters of Singapore’s population consists of Chinese and most of them migrated from the southern areas of China. As the majority of Singaporeans are Chinese, there is no shortage of places to take a chinese language course in singapore. These emigrants mostly speak different dialects of Chinese including Teochew, Hokkien, Hainanese and Cantonese. Only recently has the local government officially allowed the use of different dialects of Chinese. Before that, only Mandarin was used in schools and local mass media.
Tamil was given the title of an official language of Singapore as many people migrated from Southern India from the Tamil Nadu region. Almost half of the Indian population of Singapore is from Tamil Nadu region. Almost 10 % of the population of Singapore is Indian, which makes a sizeable number of people who converse in Tamil. Tamil is the only Indian language taught at schools in Singapore.
English is another national language that is used in workplaces and schools. British English has been adopted for all legal procedures and corporate settings. The main reason English was adopted was to unify people of different ethnicities and cultures. Moreover, it was a practical option for ensuring growth and development of the country.
Although Singlish is not an official language, it is ubiquitous in casual and informal settings. This language is considered as a sign of true Singaporean people. Singlish is basically a form of English that has a very different accent. Often, rules of English grammar are ignored in Singlish, and only the essential grammar and words are used. This language consists of vocabulary that is a mixture of slang words and expressions from various other languages. Singlish is unique to Singapore, but it has a close cousin in colloquial Malaysian English.
Singlish reflects the multicultural society of Singapore and is considered an essential part of their heritage. It is not used in formal conversations and business meetings as it considered as broken a form of English.
In Singapore, a third language is offered especially to international and promising students. These languages include Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Arabic and Bahasa Indonesian.