Speekee Engrish?

Hot in the news today is a finding that the majority of Singaporeans believe they speak Mandarin well. As suggested in the Straits Times, they probably gave themselves a generous self-assessment.
Here in Singapore, I haven’t heard anyone speak 100% Mandarin without relying on other tongues to fill up gaps in their vocabulary. Quite often our version of Mandarin has evolved into a smattering of English and Chinese dialects. My Mandarin, I am first to admit, is pretty shite although I am speaking a bit more of it these days.
Similarly – perhaps due to our multicultural background – when we speak English, we throw in Mandarin, dialects, and Malay as filler words and substitutes. There are glaring errors even in formal correspondence. Most common mistakes I’ve noticed: Pluralising uncountable nouns by adding an ‘s’. Saying you’ll ‘revert’ to someone – are you going to morph into him?
Increasingly I’ve noticed that genders are getting mixed up. That’s probably because ‘ta’ in Mandarin could mean ‘him’ or ‘her’ in English. It gets confusing, especially when the speaker is referring to two possible people, one male and one female, and you’re trying to figure out who it is without embarassing the speaker.
Admittedly, we’re all human. Even newscasters make mistakes. But imagine what it would be like learning French and other languages which have genders for nouns!


  1. dsd

    Yah, tell me about it. I was rather incredulous when I read that the majority of Singaporeans speak they Mandarin well! Like faint and die.

  2. InfernoXV

    oh yeah. Singaporeans speak awful Mandarin. I once heard a woman on the street say this while being interviewed: “是啊,那些车hor,它们不give chance的,他们hor不管那些pedestrian corssing的,它们rush past 的”

  3. sheryl

    i just did a check on ‘revert’ with dictionary.com. Shock, shock, horror, horror.
    And law firms always write “Kindly revert with your instructions.” to their clients/ fellow lawyers.

  4. Steeve

    Heeheehee – Me no speekee Mandarin good no how, but speekie chow mein number one plus flied shlimp and turtle egg suffle boogie woogie all way to city hall where doing leg job on clerk. So, good nite, speakie tomollow maybe

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