Decoding Singlish
By Lim Yan Wen

Work Singapore's guide to everyday Singlish terms, and how to use them in your conversations. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and is best taken with tongue firmly in cheek. That said, to get a real taste of Singlish, we recommend more interaction with Singaporeans to hear the beauty of Singlish right from the horse's mouth.

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Why singlish is Short and Sweet
Singaporeans are efficient people, and we prefer to take less time and words to express ourselves. One reason why Singlish, which is an informal form of English with words from Chinese dialects (such as Hokkien) and Malay thrown in, is popular here is in part due to its economical use of language. When time is money, we really can't afford to spend time on those extra syllables when we can get our meaning across with far fewer words. Here are some examples:




Hello, here is my passport.


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.


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 my
time 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. Is
anything 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?