Wah lau eh… where got time?

Naturally, an economic miracle like Singapore uses English economically to increase our productivity

I love Singlish. You can call it a creole, pidgin, colloquialism or whatever. But I’m sure most sociolinguists would qualify it as a language.

Listen in (read: eavesdrop) when you’re in Singapore.
You might discover that Singlish is an efficiently economical language for communication. Which is just great for this age that demands multitasking and super achievements —leaving us with short attention spans.

Listening to Singlish as it is spoken often reminds me of the Three Character Classic (三字经): the classical text from the Song Dynasty that teaches basic literacy and Confucian morality to children. For dramatization purposes, I have ensured that these examples capture the three-character (actually it’s more like three syllables) nature which I’m highlighting.

Sales pitch

Cashier at supermarket: Want join member?
Customer: Member get what?
Cashier: Member get points.
Customer: Points get what?
Cashier: Points exchange gift.
Customer: Don’t want. Tanks.
Cashier: Cash or card?
Customer: Pay by NETS
Cashier: PIN number please.


Mom: Do homework already?
Child: Wait then do.
Mom: Wait for what?
Child: Still got time.
Mom: Where got time?!
Child: Only one homework.
Mom: Better faster do!
Child: I know lah!
Mom: Everything also “No!”
Child: I said, “KNOW!”
Mom: Always talk back!
Child: Where got always?
Mom: Now not meh?

Small talk in the lift

Auntie: Going out huh?
Office lady: Going to work.
Auntie: Eat breakfast already?
Office lady: Going to buy.
Auntie: Got time huh?
Office lady: Still can lah.
Lift reaches the first floor.
Auntie: Better faster go.
Office lady: OK bye auntie!
Auntie: Eat more hah!

This is a work-in progress. I’ll update this article with more examples as I hear them or remember them. Hope you enjoyed it. Do contact me if you need a translation.

“If change is the only constant, then 'constantly changing' is tautologous.” says me as a content creator

“If change is the only constant, then 'constantly changing' is tautologous.” says me as a content creator