November 21, 2006

Wah piang eh! Si beh farnee!

Victor Mair writes:

I fell in love with Singaporean English when I heard it spoken in the delightful movie entitled "I not Stupid." It's an amazing mix of English, Hokkien and other Sinitic languages, Malaysian, Indian languages, and probably some other elements as well. One of the things that is most peculiar about Singlish, as it is fondly called by the natives, is the extensive use of Sinitic particles that add all sorts of nuances to an expression or sentence.

Here are a couple of examples of Singlish:

"Wah lau buay sai lah. The tee-cher say must put one. If not sure kena sai lah."

Translation: That's not possible. The professor implied otherwise. Therefore, a failure to do so would result in an unfavourable outcome for me.

"Aiyah my essay cheem meh? Where got cheem?"

Translation: Is my essay really difficult to understand? That can't be the case.

Be sure to read some of the entries in the extensive "Talking Cock" lexicon, and as background, the Wikipedia entry for Singlish.

I have an ex-Singapore army man in my Classical Chinese course. He's smart and very funny; I really like him. He told me about a movie called "Army Daze" that depicts how all young men in Singapore have to serve in the army, regardless of their background and character. To get a good taste of Singlish and the life of a Singapore army recruit, here's the whole film in nine parts:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Wah piang eh! Si beh farnee!

Translation: Oh my goodness! This is very funny!

Posted by Mark Liberman at November 21, 2006 07:05 AM