Tuesday, December 20, 2005

No English, Lah

Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin. You hear these four languages every day in both official and non-official capacities.

The other day we were going to a friend's new house for a pooja. They offered to pick us up since it was on the way from picking up the priest who would conduct the prayer. So we're sitting in the back next to the priest and he and the uncle up front start speaking in a language I couldn't recognize.

It didn't sound like Tamil since I figured that might be a common language. It also didn't sound like anything else. So I asked my wife what language they were speaking. Turns out they were speaking in Malay. I had to ask a follow-up question to my wife: Why?

So here's the kicker: The priest is Tamil and his native tongue is obviously Tamil, but he also speaks Malay. The uncle is Gujarati, but grew up in Singapore. He's fluent in Gujarati, English, and Malay. The only common language between the two was Malay so they conversed in Malay.


In all my life, English tends to be common language between random Indians.

Here in Singapore, it's just as likely for the two to end up speaking in Malay or Mandarin!

Makes me feel inadquete with my grasp of just two languages. When we first got married, I asked my wife to teach me Malay (she knows enough of it along with Mandarin to get by), but here I am still dealing with my dual-language life. I think it's time she starts teaching me the basics.

BTW, the title has the word "Lah" in it. It's the most common word spoken here in Singapore. It's a Singlish word used at the end of sentences for various reasons. I just think Singaporeans like the word so much they need to use it as much as possible.

No comments: