It’s no secret that Singlish is an endless source of amusement for non-speakers.
How many times have we heard the phrase: “Oh my god the Singaporean accent. Can you say something for me?”
Your first instinct is probably to ask them go fly kite.
But even more challenging is when they want to know what exactly “Singapore English” is.
We struggle to reply because let’s face it, no description of Singlish does it justice.
It’s instinctive—both a blessing and an affliction.
How does one articulate the convenience of negating proper grammar?
Or explain how the meaning of a sentence shifts simply by tagging on leh or lah at the end?
It’s a cross we all bear.
3 types of spoken English according to one Singaporean
Singaporean musician and TikToker Alyssa Lie has come up with a nifty way to showcase the differences.
In a TikTok, Alyssa opens her skit with an imitation of the dreaded question: “I love your Singaporean accent! Can you say it again for me?”
@itsalyssalie Singapore is a diverse country! #singlish #singlishaccent #singlishlesson #singlishedition #singlishanddialect #singlishmasters #singlishhumour ♬ original sound – Alyssa Lie – Alyssa Lie | Self-Love Journey
Her response is, “Can. Can is can one. My only question would be, ‘Which Singaporean accent are you talking about?'”
The variation Alyssa first demonstrates is the most common one we hear when interacting “normally” with friends—a languid staccato with an obvious Singlish inflection.
She then slips effortlessly into a more formal tone, clearly articulating the consonants and vowels in full sentences—like a newscaster.
“You will hear it a lot especially with news readers and things and people like this,” she says.
She then demonstrates the middle ground between the above two registers as “a general Singaporean accent where it’s like neither here nor there but it’s also not really super Singlish”.
“It’s also not really American or anything like that, but it’s also not like a proper formal Singaporean,” she added.
It’s weird that we understood that, right?
Alyssa ends the video by urging Singlish fans to clarify which version they like, so she can “understand like… which Singaporean accent is very attractive one, lah?”
TikTok viewers added some new dimensions to the discussion.
Such as mood and context being major factors that determine when to code-switch.
Also, accents can be uniquely shaped by ethnic background.
In conclusion, Singaporeans are basically speech chameleons.
Top images via TikTok itsalyssalie