Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Singlish 101

The primary language in Singapore is English. For most Singaporeans, that means that English is their first language. However, that doesn't mean that they actually SPEAK English; they speak Singlish (English with a Singaporean twist). And, sometimes, Singlish is absolutely unintelligible for us American English Speakers.

We have recently been having problems with our air conditioner. The head of the maintenance crew they sent began explain to me what the problem was and what they were doing to fix it. I stood there, completely dazed. I knew that the words he was using were English words, but somehow, I couldn't understand anything he was saying! Try as he might and concentrate as I might, I never did figure out what he meant. Singlish at it's worst!

Thankfully, Singaporeans have a sense of humor and know that their English is "unique." Those two qualities combined result in some very funny Singlish jokes.

On our walk last night, we passed this new advertisement and had a good chuckle. Kudos to those of you who can actually decipher what the first guy is trying to say!


Christianne said...

Haha -- the look on the first guy's face cracks me up every time I look at it. But I have no idea what he's saying! Translation, please?

PS: Singlish, of course, reminds me of Spanglish, of which there is a lot in Southern California. But I just realized I probably knew what was being said around me in Spanglish because I grew up with a whole side of my family that speaks Spanish! Don't know what the rest of the Southern Californians make of it . . .

Jessica Clark said...

No clue what he is saying... :)

Seen by Mercy said...

My husband Daniel and I really enjoy reading your blog (he lived in SIN for a few months in high school, and we both visited last year for a few days). Here's our guess:

Now, not just fish but shrimp also! (can you buy at LJ's)

-Katie (Grider) Peckham :)

Seen by Mercy said...

wow. now that i posted that, it almost looks more confusing than the original Singlish remark. I meant to say "Now (you can buy) not just fish but shrimp also"


Anonymous said...

I never would have guessed that is what it said.

Thank you for this blog... what fun!

danlow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hapidaye said...

This is a direct English translation of the Chinese Mandarin saying: "没(mei)no 鱼(yu)fish 虾(xia)shrimp 也(ye)also 好(hao)good".

Fish is considered more expensive and bigger than shrimp. However, even when one doesn't get the fish, having shrimp is still good enough or better than nothing.

What the saying means is that when comparing 2 items, the inferior item is still better than nothing or the inferior item is still good nevertheless.

For example:
A: My company gave me a watch for my birthday.
B: Is it a Rolex watch?
A: No way! It's just a Casio G-Shock.
B: Ha ha. Wow, it looks so cool!
A: Yep, and 没鱼虾也好 (mei yu xia ye hao), even though it's not a Rolex, I'm happy that I got a gift and the watch looks good on me!

Hope you understand the pun on the advertisement now. :)

Rebecca said...

Wow. Thanks for the explanation. That definitely helps this non-Mandarin speaker. I am sure that if we directly translated some of our English colloquialisms into Chinese, we'd cause just as much confusion!