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Speaking the Language

Singapore (City) - Speaking the Language

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The working language in Singapore is English – English is widely understood and spoken throughout Singapore. Although English is taught in schools and used widely, it is not always the lingua-franca used in homes, or among close friends and family. It is common to find the younger generation of Singaporeans effectively bilingual or multi-lingual in English and one or more other language (usually Chinese, Malay or Tamil). There are four official languages recognized in Singapore: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. A second language apart from English is taught in the Singapore local schools as part of the national education curriculum. Singapore’s Ministry of Education website offers useful teaching and learning resources for Chinese, Malay and Tamil languages for young children or beginners interested to learn more about these languages.

Over the years, Singapore has launched many language campaigns, from Speak Mandarin to Speak Good English campaigns, though the effectiveness of these campaigns remains inconclusive.

Singapore English, or Singlish, is a variation of the Standard English language, and is a version of English you will hear being spoken widely in Singapore. The use of Singapore English is a point of consternation among Singaporeans. Debate on the topic is rife in schools, coffee shops, and on the internet. It is inevitable for any expatriate working in Singapore to come across Singapore English, so it may be helpful to pick up some knowledge about the use of Singapore English. An accessible guide book on the characteristics and quirks of the Singapore English is Adam Brown’s book, the “Singapore English in a Nutshell: An Alphabetical Description of its Features” (Federal Publications, 1999; 253 pages).

A wide variety of English-language newspapers are available from most bookstores and newsagents located all over Singapore, and you will find many options for subscriptions to both international and local newspapers and magazines. Singapore’s three main English newspapers are The Straits Times, The New Paper and Today, in addition to a range of international newspapers, magazines and journals. The weekend classifieds in the major newspapers offer comprehensive listings and happenings in Singapore – from property listings, to what’s on, to finding a job. To subscribe to Singapore’s local newspapers, call Tel: (+65) 1800-737 8700 (The Straits Times and The Sunday Times) and Tel: (+65) 1800-733 4455 (The New Paper). Today is distributed free.

Expatriates who are in Singapore to start up a business may wish to contact the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) for a comprehensive online business listings of businesses in Singapore. The SICC also organizes events and seminars that are great events for networking and learning more about doing business in Singapore. The SICC Office is centrally located at 6 Raffles Quay, #10-01 Singapore 048580. Tel: (+65) 6500 0988.

English books are readily available at major bookstores. The two centrally-located bookstores - Borders and Books Kinokuniya - offer the widest selection of English language books in Singapore. Borders is located at 501 Orchard Road Wheelock Place #01-00, and Books Kinokuniya’s main store is located at 391 Orchard Road Ngee Ann City #03-10/15 Takashimaya Shopping Centre. There is a growing number of smaller and specialty bookshops located in neighborhood shopping malls.

Singapore’s public libraries are well-stocked with literature from all around the world, and are good sources of information on printed literature penned by Singapore/Malaysian authors, and on various topics about Asia. There are 3 regional libraries, 1 reference library and 19 public libraries in Singapore. Lookout for community children’s libraries that are targeted at children aged 10 and younger and located in HDB housing estates. It is possible for foreigners to borrow books from the public libraries upon registration, some registration fees and conditions apply. For more information, visit the national library’s website at www.nlb.gov.sg

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

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