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Manglish? Singlish?


Malaysia English(Manglish) and Singapore English(Singlish) are some sort of the unofficial “national language” for both Malaysia and Singapore. But what is the difference? Citizens of both countries often fought and claim as which are rightfully theirs but can anyone make a difference? I can’t but there are several differences that I had observed from watching Singaporean shows, radios, Youtubes and bla bla bla. I compared my observations with the Manglish spoken here in Malaysia and I think I made quite a few interesting comparisons.

Ok. This is some sort of a Manglish lesson for those who didn’t know. Some might claim they speak perfect English but little do they know, at times they are speaking Manglish instead of English. Due to the multiracial environment we lived in, our supposedly British English had interracial group sex with other languages, that result in unwanted birth of several terms only used in Malaysia. These are the following words.

Used to refer “working out of town”. Seriously, many had watched Western shows or movies but had you guys heard them using this word? Or do they use out of town?
Noodles. Trust me. There are a lot of people who think mee is a standard English word due to the contribution from Maggie Mee
People always refer taking a sick leave as MC but not much people know exactly what is it. It is a short form for Medical Certificate and now many had regard it as a word itself.
Ok. I admit. I do not know that this is a Malaysian English word either. Apparently, Westerners refer them as flip-flops. I thought one is British English and another is American English. LOL.
Probably one of the newest term around compare to the rest but definitely one of the most misunderstood and frequently used word. Westerners often refer them as cell phone as a short form for cellular phone or mobile phone. We? Easy la. Can use hand carry everywhere then just call it as handphone lo.

So how many exactly of you are not aware that those words above are only used in Malaysia and Singapore and not America or England? There are a lot more but those are the few common ones. Even “OK” is just a short form for OKAY but many thought that that’s the actual spelling. These words are not only exclusive for Manglish as Singlish also contains them. The origin of those words are still unknown to me.

How does Manglish and Singlish came about?
Apparently, the Singapore government branded those broken English used by Singaporean as Singlish in order to make them learn proper English. Then, the Malaysian Government follow suit and branded our rojak English as Manglish in order for us to realize that and start to proper English. However, their efforts apparently FAIL big time because now citizens of both countries proudly declare that as their culture. Talk about backfired attempt.

The “Lah” Word

The “Lah” word is apparently the Holy Grail of Manglish and Singlish. It is so frequently used that the Oxford Dictionary featured it. Malaysian and Singaporean are so proud of it, they always claimed it as theirs. Trust me. I’ve heard Malaysians telling to a Caucasian that “You will know that a person is a Malaysian and speaks Manglish when he or she uses the word Lah at the end of their sentences.” I bet the same thing is happening in Singapore.

Some sources said that this word is derived from the Chinese language. One of the main reason is the Chinese is using this more frequently than other races. However, I support the other source which claimed that this is of the Malay word origin rather than Chinese. We learned that the word “lah” is used in Malay language to exaggerate a message. This is the example.

Jangan bising – Please be quiet

Jangan bising lah – The frustration in this statement is much more apparent than the previous one. If you do not know Bahasa Malaysia then you just don’t get it.

What are the differences I notice?

For both Manglish and Singlish, the sentence’s structure is almost the same. The most obvious difference I notice is the slang. Manglish is pronounced with a mixture of Malay language slang in it while Singlish is pronounced with a mixture of Hokkien or Mandarin slang in it. Probably because we learned the Malay language in our primary school. Singlish had many mixture of the Hokkien language such as “liao”, “nia”, “sueh” and bla bla bla. Manglish uses much more Malay words such as “kena”, “mati”, and bla bla bla.

If you listen carefully, you will notice that most Singaporeans can pronounce their English words much more accurate than Malaysians. Not true for all. In Kuala Lumpur, the youth there could speak with a hint of American accent mixture in it. Which is the pronunciation of “R” is much more apparent. Singlish tend to be much more laid back and with a much obvious Chinese accent in it. I’m not referring to those dumb accents often made by Westerners to label us Chinese. It’s difficult to observe but the difference is there.

Another difference is the words used in their speech. Not much people are aware of this but Singlish uses more Hokkien or Mandarin words while Manglish uses more Malay words or their own words. These are the few examples.

Referring to a hot girl.
Manglish: Wah…That girl damn cun la.
Singlish: Wah…That girl damn sui la.
Cun is another word only used around here which I think is derived from the Malay language.

Referring to something awesome.
Manglish: Wah lau…You are very terrer la.
Singlish: Wah lau..You are sibeh kao lat la.

I am making examples based on the majority Manglish and Singlish I’ve heard. You can argue that you too will use all those words regardless of being Malaysian or Singaporean which is true. But based on popularity I’ve heard, I made these assumptions. So forgive me if I’m wrong.

Jack Neo had used a lot of Singlish in his movies to promote laughter.

So that’s all for now. I hope I had entertain you guys with this piece of work. That’s all for now. Leave a comment so I can know what are your thoughts of this. Thank you.

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A blogger and designer with a passion to share my views and happenings to the world.



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I'm a digital marketeer, visual story teller and designer who is determined to live my life to the fullest.

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