Getting by in Singapore

Posted on 2 Apr, 2012 | Play Magazine

If you are planning for a holiday or have a short business trip to the island city of Singapore, the best way to be prepared is to have a smattering of simple, conversational Mandarin, Malay and of course Singlish. While the official languages of Singapore includes English – mind you British English – it would not hurt to know bits and pieces of these three other tongues just so that you get to bait some smiles, open doors and endear yourselves to  the locals. 

English is perfectly acceptable, and could be used as the default. But in case that doesn’t work, refer to the common terms below so when you do get yourself in such a situation, uttering several of these will help you understand the responses that you get. 
Thank you                        
  • (Mandarin)       Sien se                           
  • (Malay)             Terima
  • (Singlish)         ---

You’re welcome

  • (Mandarin)     Buyong (informal)   Bu Ke Qi (formal)
  • (Malay)            Sama sama

(Agree) Yes

  • (Mandarin)    Shi
  • (Malay)           Ye
  • (Singlish)      Can

(Disagree) No

  • (Mandarin)     Bushi / Mei you
  • (Malay)            Tidak
  • (Singlish)       So how?



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