Speaking English in Singapore

Hi everyone,

It is widely agreed that speaking English is essential for a successful integration in Singapore. Do you agree? Share your experience!

Do you speak English? If so, where did you learn this language? Where can one attend a language course in Singapore?

If not, how do you cope with daily activities? Is it easy to communicate in a different language with Singaporeans?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


English (or rather, the local dialect called Singlish) is the main language in Singapore, all schooling other than language classes) is done in English and everybody switches to English as soon as a member of a different race joins the conversation.
That said, every Singaporean speaks at least two, often three or four languages. Chinese (Mandarin and various dialects) are widely spoken and other races often speak their language at home (e.g. Malay and Tamil, which are also official languages in Singapore). However, it is impossible to survive solely with those languages and without English.

Don't agree ! Actually it is Chinese in Singapore that is the main language . And who told you the opposite is wrong , I came here thinking English is the main language here , but unfortunately it was a lie , almost everybody here (except Malay and Tamil ppl) speak Chinese . The problem is sometimes they don't even speak English as I witnessed here ????! Most of the time asking for water in caffes (specially away from malls) is a no go , at least for me . So next time if someone asks you what's the spoken language in Singapore ;tell him Chinese and don't be fooled with Singlish thingy they talk about .

Fdoul: What you wrote above is not what I experienced in my 12 years in Singapore!
In the few instances when the people around me continued speaking Chinese although I (as an obvious non-Chinese) was present, they were from China (or there were Chinese present who didn't speak any English).
Every Singaporean speaks English, but not every Singaporean speaks Chinese (only 65% are ethnically Chinese and I know that even a few of them don't speak the language).

Agreed with Beppi, I'm in this country 10yrs now, and I'm not a Chinese, Malay or Tamil (so practically out of 4 official languages, I only know English). But, never ever faced any problem communicating local people here. All of them are well versed in English and even a 80yrs old Uncle or Aunty can speak fluent in English. The issue could be people who are recently migrating from China or Tamilnadu (a state in India where local language is Tamil) they may not able to speak English but anyway these are not local Singaporeans and theirs numbers are marginal (as most of the expats with an EP or S pass can able to speak English).

yes I do speak English and studied at school in Japan and US.
I didn't go to any English course in Singapore.

How I brash up my English ? ( of course not perfect / work and daily life no problem.)
I play golf with non-Japanese people. So I need to speak English day by day.

And my wife is a Singaporean, so no choice .......

English  for Biz yes, for interaction you got no challenges everyone has way of getting the msg through. Cheers

Fdoul: Don't know where you live your life in Singapore but if you can't ask for some water in English at a cafe you're in trouble!

Well I don't know , but it seems you are living in orchard road or something . If you are telling me that English is the spoken language in Singapore I will definitely laugh hard .
For the one mocking me about asking for water , go the west specially outside of malls ! Go to the normal cafes and ask  something from the Chinese server , let me know after that .Even if they speak English (if you can call it so ) am pretty sure you will have hard time decoding 🤗

I lived in the heartland (Yes, in the West: Clementi and Upper Bukit Timah) and frequented all the places locals go to (I love to eat in hawker centres!), while usually avoiding Orchard Road and surroundings. I had NO such problems in all my 15 years in Singapore!
Maybe what you call "Chinese" is in fact the local dialect of English, "Singlish"? It can be a bit difficult for a newcomer: "wo-TAH lah" will get you further than "wo-tur please".

Don noo lah , maybe your English is not my English !? Anyway ;long story short for me a country where the population in the bus and in the train and in public spaces speak Chinese is not an English speaking country . And I do understand Singlish which is and accent more than a dialect btw . Singlish is so easy to pick up in fact specially my in-laws use it to address me , anyway let's agree to not agree , leave it as it is ! . Have a nice afternoon body .😎

Judging by your posts, your English isn't very far from mine.
But maybe you are living in a different Singapore?!?
In any case, I agree to disagree.

Well English is my fourth language , maybe that's why it's not that great ! But that doesn't mean I suck in it ! . And I am more than capable to understand any English native speaker , so let's put my English level aside for now hehehe .

According to the Wikipedia: the four official languages of Singapore are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English, while the national language is Malay. The three languages other than English were chosen to correspond with the major ethnic groups present in Singapore at the time: Mandarin had gained status since the introduction of Chinese-medium schools; Malay was deemed the "most obvious choice" for the Malay community; and Tamil for the largest Indian ethnic group in Singapore, in addition to being "the language with the longest history of education in Malaysia and Singapore". In 2009, more than 20 languages were identified as being spoken in Singapore, reflecting a rich linguistic diversity in the city. Singapore's historical roots as a trading settlement gave rise to an influx of foreign traders, and their languages were slowly embedded in Singapore's modern day linguistic repertoire.

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