What Language is Spoken in Singapore?
Singapore is as multilingual as its diverse combination of cultures and people. The main languages spoken in this Southeast Asian giant are four, comprising of Tamil, English, Mandarin Chinese and Malay, but there are approximately 21 languages in which people communicate. The vast number of languages signifies the varied and multiracial nature of the country’s population. Out of the four main languages, there is a bilingual policy of education that terms English studied in schools as a person’s first language, while one of the other 3 local dialects, specifically the mother-tongue of that person is their second language.
On a visit to the country, you will find that English happens to be the official dialect spoken in business circles, schools and by government. The country even has their own unique version of this international language, referred to as ‘Singlish’.
Initially, English was spoken by the minority, after British colonization, but was later adopted as the official language to facilitate a neutral identity and propel it to its current status as a world class leader in trade and education.
Malay was the original national language before the British arrived in 1819, as is evident in the anthem of Singapore, the ‘Majula Singapura’, translated as Onward Singapore is written in Malay. Close to 13% of the population speaks this language, which has similar variants also spoken in neighboring Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.
The Chinese population in Singapore, comprising about three quarters of the total population communicate in Mandarin otherwise known as Huayu. It is similar to the official Chinese language Putonghua, which is centered on the Beijing dialect, but employs a much simpler form of writing. About 50 percent of Singaporeans, hailing from southern China speak Mandarin at home.
For Indians living in Singapore, Tamil is the official dialect spoken as more than half of the Indians hail from the southern Tamil Nadu area. Indians make up under 10% of the country’s population (the smallest group), however, there are several varieties of languages among them. Tamil is officially taught in schools, however Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Gujurati can also be studied.
That being said, most Singaporeans are bilingual, however, promising students are offered a third foreign language which could either be German, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish or Bahasa Indonesian.