The 4 Official Languages of Singapore

official languages of Singapore

photo by bookjunkie

Saw this quadri-lingual sign and could not resist photographing it. English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay.

English is our language of business and Malay our national language.

Most Singaporeans are bilingual due to our education system which requires us to take up a second language. But very few of us are truly bilingual and equally strong in both languages.

Usually the one we speak at home will be the one that we are most comfortable with and I would term that our native language. So I would think that there are native speakers of English in Singapore, contrary to common belief.

But the one language that we all truly have in common is Singlish.

On a side note the Tamil word on the danger sign literally means – danger, don’t come near rather than danger, keep out. I find it intriguiging how meaning is often not completely but just slightly lost in translation.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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10 Responses to The 4 Official Languages of Singapore

  1. Al says:

    Ooooh!! I love this! 😀

    I remember reading an article in a Japanese media about Tamil language being often neglected in many signages in Singapore. More often than not, Tamil was (I hope it has become a thing of the past now, hence the past tense) left out for Japanese :'(

    But, comparing Singapore with neighboring Malaysia, I see more signages featuring Tamil in Singapore than I did Malaysia, where Japanese and Arabic have become ubiquitous especially in the public transportation places (ie. airport, train stations etc). Sad, eh?

  2. Al says:

    Do you think it is necessary to leave out Tamil in order to appeal to foreign tourists, be them Japanese or Arabic or any new rich?

    • bookjunkie says:

      Due to personal reasons I like it the way it is (it’s symbolic as well to reflect the inclusiveness of all the ethnicities). Otherwise the minorities tend to feel marginalized. Although interestingly even within the Indian community, other languages like Punjabi, Malayalam and Hindi are not included which made the even smaller groups feel left out. They had no choice and many ended up taking Malay as a second language instead.

      • Al says:

        Wow… thanks for sharing. I didn’t know there are so many languages spoken within the Indian community 🙂 What a wonderful world we live in 😀

        • bookjunkie says:

          I know I am leaving out quite a number of others like Gujarati for instance….. just like the Chinese have various dialects like Cantonese, Hokkien, Hainanese, Teochew etc.

          • Al says:

            Dialects aren’t taught in school in Singapore, are they? It would be very interesting if they do 😀

          • bookjunkie says:

            The government tried to eradicate all dialects and replace them with Mandarin. It’s quite sad.

          • Al says:

            Oh noooo……
            I wonder what is the rationale behind this move :'( Multi-lingual, multi-ethnicities, multi-cultural etc are all worth celebrating and respected. This is very sad :'(

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