2007-11-02

 

Talk Straight. Lah!

One of the great things about meeting people, even if only virtually, is learning new things. For instance, I have learned that Singaporeans speak very good English, they all seem to have at least one blog (many have multiple) and they have a local dialect referred to as Singlish.

Singlish tends to be characterized by its simplicity and directness. As the follwoing shamelessly cribbed from dandan's site illustrates:

WHEN GIVING A CUSTOMER BAD NEWS
Britons: I'm sorry, Sir, but we don't seem to have the sweater you want in your size, but if you give me a moment, I can call the other outlets for you.

S'pore: No Stock.

RETURNING A CALL
Britons: Hello, this is John Smith. Did anyone page for me a few moments ago?

S'pore: Hello, who page?

ASKING SOMEONE TO MAKE WAY .
Britons: Excuse me, I'd like to get by. Would you please make way?

S'pore: S-kew me

WHEN SOMEONE OFFERS TO PAY
Britons: Hey, put your wallet away, this drink is on me.

S'pore: No-need, lah.

WHEN ASKING FOR PERMISSION
Britons: Excuse me, but do you think it would be possible for me to enter through this door?

S'pore: (pointing the door) can ar?

WHEN ENTERTAINING
Britons: Please make yourself right at home.

S'pore: Don't be shy, lah!

WHEN DOUBTING SOMEONE
Britons: I don't recall you giving me the money.

S'pore: Where got?

WHEN DECLINING AN OFFER
Britons: I'd prefer not to do that, if you don't mind.

S'pore: Dowan la...

IN DISAGREEING ON A TOPIC OF DISCUSSION
Britons: Err. Tom, I have to stop you there. I understand where you're coming from, but I really have to disagree with what you said about the issue.

S'pore: You mad, ah?

WHEN ASKING SOMEONE TO LOWER THEIR VOICE.
Britons: Excuse me, but could you please lower your voice, I'm trying to concentrate over here.

S'pore: Shut up lah!

WHEN ASKING SOMEONE IF HE/SHE KNOWS YOU.
Britons: Excuse me, but I noticed you staring at me for some time.. Do I know you?

S'pore: See what, see what?

WHEN ASSESSING A TIGHT SITUATION.
Britons: We seem to be in a bit of a predicament at the moment.

S'pore: Die-lah!!

WHEN TRYING TO FIND OUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED
Britons: Will someone tell me what has just happened?

S'pore: Wat happen Why like that.... ??

WHEN SOME ONE DID SOMETHING WRONG
Britons: This isn't the way to do it here let me show you,

S'pore: Like that also don't know how to do!!!!

WHEN ONE IS ANGRY
Britons: Would you mind not disturbing me

S'pore: Go Away lah!


Two great books on writing, Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, both stress the need to make efficient use of your words.

For those of us with a prediliction toward flourish and embellishment and gratuitous locution with the ostensible objective of communicating in a whole and complete manner, without ambiguity by ensuring that every thought and nuance is elegantly captured in a cornucopia of words and clauses, need to take to heart, not only the lesson, but the essential essence of the simplicity and elegance that Singlish can provide in the interchange of daily discourse among individuals.

Talk straight. Lah!

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Comments:
Enjoyed much, lah!
 
Ever read Me Talk Pretty One Day? Not quite the same thing but.
 
This is great. You know we can still read quite well if all the vowels are removed from our English words (as they are in Hebrew). This proves that we could get by with far fewer words and still communicate just fine.
 
kaymac: Good

tena: nope

barbara: language contains many redundancies. Stripping away the vowels in English may leave it still decipherable. I am not sure about squeezing all the consonants together, though. Another thing that can be done (which shows that we regard words as symbols, rather than actually reading the individual letters) is keeping the first and last letter of a word the same, but scrambling the letters inside. It is perfectly readable because we don't notice it (it may prove a problem for non-native language speakers, though).
 
What a great post! Does the "lah" translate at all? I assume it is an expression that likely doesn't translate but punctuates a statement.

Maybe I should read those two books you suggest, as I am definitely not a concise person. Haha. I love the last paragraph of this post. I am definitely prone to flourish but even saying that is giving myself too much credit. Whereas this last paragraph of yours was lovely in its flourish, I think I am just wordy....often rambling and repetitive. :)

As much as I admire people who can say so much in so few words, I love lengthy prose. Maybe that is why I am in awe of poetry but in love with classical literature.
 
breal: To crib from wikipedia:

The ubiquitous word lah (/lɑ́/ or /lɑ̂/), rarely spelled as larh or luh, is used at the end of a sentence. It originates from the Chinese character (啦, Pinyin: Lè/Là). Lim (2004) describes it as a particle that simultaneously asserts a position and entices solidarity. The main meaning of 'lah' is to indicate understanding or a common assumption, therefore roughly akin to 'you know' in English.

There is definitely more to Singlish than conciseness. I find it nice. It is distinctive, but comprehensible.

I first started encountering larh many years ago in e-mails from a Chinese friend.
 
well, i have to say that almost every word is true. ;)
 
cavalock: thanks. I must admit I was a wee bit nervous posting it. I was afraid some might find be offended by a white guy posting about a foreign dialect. And not only that, but trying to imitate it.
 
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