Monday, April 13, 2009

Singapore: The Language(s)

(This is one of a series of posts about our recent trip to Singapore. You can find other posts by clicking the "Singapore" tag below.)

It's not only the cuisine that makes Singapore a melting pot.

English is the official language of Singapore (though the locals speak a quirky creole known affectionately as Singlish, and the designated "national" language is Malay) thanks to the decades the island spent under the British. Many old historical markers, street signs, etc are entirely in English, written in a typeface straight out of London.

(After that murtabak, I was a little afraid to cross!)

Modern official notices, however, are posted (from top to bottom in the photo below) in English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil (which is the majority language of southeastern India, where most Singaporeans of Indian descent hail from).
Though some use a more universal language.
Private businesses tend to combine English and the ethnic language of the proprietor and/or target patrons, regardless of neighborhood. The signs below can be found in Little India; Chinese on the top, obviously, and Tamil on the bottom.
But there are many more linguistic curiosities to be found. The restored headstones from the old cemetery, now embedded in a garden wall in Fort Canning Park, include examples of German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portugese, as well.
Plus, ahem, a few bad puns.

And even in Sinapore, it seems, Chinese poses the most difficulties for would-be translators and transliterators. (Is that even a word?)Was there no one in Singapore who could point out how silly these signs sound?

1 comment:

Mike said...

Somewhere down that alley, the owner of the "90% Fresh Crocodile Meat" kiosk thought to himself: