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Whether you’re living in Singapore or you’ve just moved here for a job, this seemingly mumble jumble of sounds they call a language is going to confuse you. Our Malaysian friends may be able to relate to some, though.

If you’re still clueless at this point, Singlish is the local lingo in Singapore. It’s a fabulous concoction of English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Malay and Tamil, and a true reflection of Singapore’s multicultural society. You might hate it or love it, but you’re going to have to understand it when you’re in Singapore.

As much as we enjoy using Singlish in our daily conversation, we must also know that Singlish can bring in many problems. When we are conversing with our overseas stakeholders or bosses, they might not fully understand what we are trying to say. This would in turn portray an unprofessional image in their head. It may seem disrespectful and incompetent as well.

Here are some of the Singlish words or phrases that are commonly used by people:

1) Sian

What it means: As long as you’re experiencing boredom, a lack of enthusiasm or just tired of life. Basically this word can be used in a multitude of contexts.
Example: “Time is passing so slowly, sian” or “I hardly slept today, sian.”

2) Cheem

What it means: If something has got you dumbfounded, perplexed, bewildered, confused or any synonym related to these words, that thing is cheem.
Example: “This exam question is cheem” or “She writes in a really cheem way.”

3) Kiasu

What it means: A fiercely competitive spirit.
Example: “She queued for four hours to get the latest iPhone – so kiasu!”

4) Can or not?

What it means: A way of asking if something is possible/can be achieved.
Example: “Dinner at 7? Can or not?”

5) Paiseh

What it means: A Hokkien term for embarrassing and shy. If you’re out for a big meal and there’s a little left on a sharing plate that nobody wants to take, it’s also known as the ‘paiseh piece’.
Example: “Paiseh – can you lend me some cash?”

6) Tapao

What it means: The Singlish equivalent of takeaway.
Example: “I’m going to tapao lunch from the hawker centre.”

Are these words familiar to you? Are you also using it on a frequent basis? It is alright as we know that Singlish fosters better bonds between people. However, we need to also know the standard proper English when we are talking to our stakeholders, bosses or even clients.

English is the most widely spoken language around the world and is needed in communication in a variety of professional fields.  If you have a good command of English, not only do your career opportunities broaden but also your chance for getting paid more at a chosen job increases.

Communication skills are important tools for us to exchange information, ideals, feelings, and thoughts.  The corporate world values these skills very much for many transactions are negotiated successfully by being an effective communicator.  Companies consider English as an important criterion for selecting a successful candidate.  Furthermore, employees are expected to be interactive and communicative with others in the team.  Indeed, teamwork is vital in multinational companies.  Because effective communication is the means by which business processes keep working, communicating in English is a must.

In short, companies want people who can basically read, understand and speak in English.  You can increase your marketability by learning how to converse in English fluently.  If you want to stay ahead in the game, you will need to increase your English skills.  There is truth to the saying that people will judge you by the way you speak.  In the professional world, this is very important to note as you are representing your company in meetings, conferences, and interactions with stakeholders.  A professional look must be substantiated with effective English communication skills.


The Singlish phrases you really need to know to chat like a local

11 Singaporean Slang Words You Must Know & What They Mean

Why Speaking Proper English is Important for your Career