Published on 13 May 2024

“Shiok ah” – The rising trend of Singlish use in international pop culture

Assoc. Prof. Tan Ying Ying made an observation on the evolution of language use in Singapore

Associate Professor Tan Ying Ying (LMS) penned a commentary Is Singlish going global? published in CNA Online on 13 May 2024. She observed a rising trend of international performers dropping uniquely Singlish phrases during their concerts and sought to understand the reason for this. 


Assoc. Prof. Tan, who researches the evolution of language use in multicultural Singapore, says that Singlish is not English – it is a contact language borne out of the local language that comprises many different languages such as Malay and Hokkien. In a sustained period of time, interactions in a multilingual context will give rise to contact languages. 

The distinct colloquialisms used in Singlish are instantly recognised by Singaporeans worldwide and have been commodified into products that can be marketed and sold. She gave examples of local merchandise bearing Singlish words and phrases, as well as government campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic – all designed to connect with local audiences. Foreign artistes dropping Singlish phrases to the delight of the audience is, in her view, yet again “a very clever marketing strategy” to let themselves into a code used exclusively by Singaporeans.

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