04 October 2007

you know you're in singapore...

when almost all your questions end with "is it?". call it assimilation or acculturation, it's simply the result of having stayed in a foreign country for quite a while. you know the saying "when in rome, do as the romans do"? in singapore, it's "when in singapore, talk as the singaporeans do".

the way i see it, it's not a bad thing, really. it's simply finding a way to get yourself understood by the locals. forget about the grammar you've studied in english class. forget about the american twang that you've practiced for so long in school, in the call centers (if you've worked in one as i've had), you'll only get a funny look from the locals. i tried that once with the cranky auntie at the hawker center where i regularly have dinner. i said "iced coffee to go please". she just stared at me. after the third try, i resignedly said: "iced kopi, take away". the goal here is to communicate in the best possible way.

i find myself unconsciously adding "is it?" to all my questions, sometimes even when it doesn't call for it. and i overhear conversations with that phrase that makes me smile. some examples:

"you're going on vacation to india, is it?" -- indian colleague tells me

"you've been on shift since this morning, is it?" -- me, to taxi driver

"the queue on the airport is long, is it?" -- me, to taxi driver

"you're cancelling your appointment, is it?" -- attendant at the spa, to me

and let's not forget about the pronunciation of certain letters and words that in the beginning, seem so wrong to us. but after a while, we accept them because, well, it just seems normal to hear them. and i sometimes think that maybe their pronunciation is the right one, and we've been taught the wrong way.

the letter H is pronounced as "heych"

the letter Z is pronounced as "zed"

"schedule" (which most pronounce as "skedyul") is pronounced as "shejul"

"outram" (we say "awtram") is pronounced as "ootrum"

sometimes, i have to catch myself before i say anything, because i think my past english and speech teachers, my past editors and my mother (such a stickler for right grammar) will cringe when they hear me talk. i sometimes cringe when i hear myself. thankfully, it hasn't affected my writing yet.

i haven't gotten around to adding "lah!" to my sentences, though. we'll see in a few months.

so how about you? what habits, expressions have you acquired while living abroad?


  1. how about that thing they do with their hands...yung parang close-open motion to say any amount/quantity in multiples of 5. HAHA. ang hirap i-explain. basta gets mo na yun.

    and aiyoh. i keep on saying aiyoh dahil one of the people i play badminton with keeps on saying aiyoh. lech.

  2. hehehe dito rin sa Canada may is it? sa ka do you? pero hindi kasing dami dyan sa Singapore....

    naalala ko nung bago bago ako dyan noon di ko alam kung ano itatawag ko sa mamang drayber e ako lang mag-isa ..dinig ko kasi Angkong e lol yun pala Uncle :)

    kasi sa pinas kapag nasa Ongpin/Sta Cruz tawag sa mga matatandang lalaking chinese e Angkong diba :) or Amo sa babae naman e Ama.

  3. hi rots, oo alam ko yang hand gesture na yan..tsaka ung "aiyoh".

    a may naisip pa pala ko. minsan nasasabi ko rin: "so how?" haha..

    hi melai! mahirap yata ung "do you?".. matry nga minsan. oo, imbes na manong at manang, unkel auntie na ang tawag ko sa matatanda. hhe

  4. hahaha. totally can relate.

    here in germany, they always say "or" at the end of their questions. "do you want to go to starbucks, or?" "tomorrow's a holiday, or?" i think it's to give the person you're talking to a chance to refute what you've just said. in german, it sounds normal. but when i've carried that habit over to when i speak english, it just sounds...awful.

    hay, dami pang iba. "we should meet us at 12 o clock." "they will feedback us." "do you have fire?" nakakagigil :oD

    hey, also heard some SG people saying "can, can"? pano naman yun ginagamit sa sentence? hahaha.

  5. nagiti naman ako sa entry na ito. naalala ko yung dapat wala daw 'R' :D

  6. hi jennie jill! matry nga minsan yang pag gamit ng or na yan..haha.teka, ano ibig sabihin ng "do you have fire"?

    ya, yung can/cannot na phrase..
    you going with me, can? ayaw nila ng "can't" dito, kasi malabo ang dating..hehe

    aoisoba! ano yung dapat walang "r" na yan?

  7. If you're in Canada, you have to say "eh?" (pronounced "aay") at the end of sentences, even when you're not asking a question.

  8. karen6:24 PM

    hi ays, medyo naconfuse nga ko sa schedule (shejul) na yan kasi last wk i had a training tpos european un instructor and maganda talaga un accent. ang napansin ko lang, "shejul" din pagpronounce nya! ngayon tuloy isip ko baka ganun talga? hehehe!

  9. hi fruity! parang ok rin itry yang "ey" na yan ha..

    kar! oo nga e. pati mgr ko na australian, ganon din ang pagsabi nya. so how, ah?

  10. yung sa shejul kasi British/English Pronounciation...kasi diba British colonized daw sila...same with utram....funny nde naman sila nagsasabi ng 'crap' or 'noggins' :P
    yung sa 'R' may running joke dati na para maintindihan ka remove the 'R' in your words.example Orchard should be 'ochad'

  11. hi aoi! a ok, gets ko na..oh no, pano na last name ko? kaya pala laging pinapaspell sa kin pag may kausap ako sa phone..haha

  12. iba uk sa american english kaya may differences

    herb vs erb
    preevacy vs pryvacy

    tama naman yan either

    ok naman ako sa uk english. nakakaasar lang yung accent dito. hindi naman british eh, exaggerated yung slangs + chinese tones

    yung "accent" nagiging "eksen"

    pag oorder ka, lahat uulitin lalagyan ng "ah?"

    how many ah?
    me: one...
    one ah...
    coke ah?
    yes, coke...
    coke ah...
    tek aweh ah?
    take away...
    tekawe ah...

    pansin ko mas gamit ng common people ang "ah". yung mga educated use "is it?"

  13. errrmmm for me i try to talk and communicate the best possible way in the right english accent. Im not used to lah... lor.... ermmm (ooops haha), but only in telling jokes... getting mean sometimes. lolz. So far so good.

  14. hi ebs! oo nga, parang mas lokal ang dating pag may "ah"

    hey omar! i do try the right accent sometimes, kaso di nila ko maintindihan minsan, so nakikijoin na rin ako. hahaa

  15. lol i can never talk straight to a hawker auntie haha so much for studying grammar...great blog you have here....ok lah!

    will link u back



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