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Singlish: Culture or Bad Habit


In Singapore, it is rare to find someone who speaks perfect British English, not even English teachers, tutors and even literary professors. This is so as the locals are accustomed to the usage of “Singlish”, which is a Singaporean version of the British English Language. This form of English, which the locals term it as a quicker and more “efficient” way of speaking, is rather ‘infectious’ such that even many foreigners who move into Singapore gradually pick it up and use it, no matter what level of standard of their English skill had been before. So, if Singlish is so ‘infectious’ and so convenient,  should it really be considered a part of Singapore’s culture or is it just a bad habit of speaking improper English that those living here cultivate? Here are my views…


Why Singlish Should Be Considered As Part Of Singapore’s Culture:

Firstly, Singlish has been existent within Singapore for a very long time, and the locals have been using it probably all their lives. Something that is part of the so many peoples’ lives for so long can be considered to be within our blood, and it is a way of life. Perhaps those who promote the “Speak good English” campaign will disagree with my view, after all, Singapore’s official listed form of English is officially established British English and not Singlish which has never been treated as an official form of English nor has it been officiated by any dictionary. However, since it has existed and been used all the time by us, surely it is a unique part of our culture that other countries do not have? Furthermore, just because of the fact that Singlish does not have a dictionary of its own means it should not exist? Therefore, trying to suppress Singlish and calling it a bad habit would be akin to giving our culture and national identity a tight slap?

Singlish is already a part of Singaporeans and it is here to stay, no matter how hard anyone tries, it would be virtually impossible to axe out Singlish totally, so instead we should embrace it, recognize it as part of us and live on with it, for it is the medium that allows us to speak  to each other and feel comfortable even in a foreign place. Take this situation for example, you are studying or working in England and you meet another Singaporean, you will feel more comfortable, less lonely and more at home when you can converse in Singlish to the person, rather than trying to converse in proper British English just because the people there do so. In such a situation, Singlish creates a national identity where Singaporeans can truly know each other at any place on Earth, such a strong piece of national identity should be considered as part of our culture, for it is what makes us unique from others, and it is what makes us feel at home. Even foreigners who stay in Singapore long enough pick up Singlish and find it ‘convenient’, so should we not as Singaporeans consider this speaking medium as part of our culture?


Or Is Singlish A Plain Bad Habit

The truth is that Singlish is not an officially recognised form of the English Language, and Singapore’s official listed form of English is British English. Using Singlish with the reason that it is already part of us and is also convenient may be just an outlet of laziness to cultivate good English speaking habits. Singlish is composed of some unrecognised English words, Malay words, words from dialects, real English words and really erroneous grammar. Therefore, Singlish is not really good for us in terms of allowing us to be well versed in English language, and could negatively affect us especially for those who need to communicate with others from other English Speaking nations or those taking examinations. Finally, considering Singlish as part of our culture just because we cannot evict it seems to be a sort of easy way out?


So should Singlish really be considered as part of our culture or is it just a bad habit? You be the judge.