What language is spoken in Singapore

February 20, 2024
What language is spoken in Singapore

Singapore's linguistic landscape is as diverse and dynamic as its culture, reflecting the country's rich tapestry of ethnicities, histories, and social fabric. At the heart of this linguistic diversity is the unique blend of languages that Singaporeans speak, ranging from official languages to the colloquial patois known as Singlish.

Today, we will delve into the languages spoken in Singapore, offering insights into their origins, usage, and significance in the daily lives of Singaporeans.

What is Singlish?

Singlish is a Creole language that embodies Singapore's multicultural identity. It is a colloquial form of English that incorporates elements from the country's various languages and dialects, including Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese, and Tamil, among others.

Singlish is characterized by its unique slang, expressions, and syntax, which may seem unconventional to speakers of standard English. Despite its informal status, Singlish is a significant part of Singapore's cultural heritage, serving as a linguistic mirror of the nation's diversity and unity.

Singapore's official languages

There are four Singapore official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. This multilingual policy reflects the country's multicultural makeup and ensures that the linguistic needs of its major ethnic groups are addressed.


English serves as the lingua franca of Singapore, used in government, business, and education. It is the medium through which Singaporeans from different ethnic backgrounds communicate with one another.

Though rooted in British English, a dynamic blend with American influences emerges, reflecting Singapore's global embrace. This unique dialect, often infused with local flair ("Singlish"), becomes a vibrant marker of cultural identity.

Singaporean Mandarin

Singaporean Mandarin is more than just textbook tones. This official language of Singapore, echoing in classrooms and daily interactions, forms the core of communication for many Singaporeans.

Yet, it's not a mere copy of Chinese Mandarin. It incorporates unique melodies, borrowing flavors from other Chinese dialects spoken here. This beautiful blend reflects Singapore's rich heritage, creating a symphony of language that's both familiar and unique.


Hokkien, a vibrant melody from China's Fujian province, echoes through Singapore's Chinese community. This Southern Min dialect passed down through generations, isn't just a language; it's a thread connecting heritage and identity. Its influence weaves through "Singlish", adding distinct flavors to the nation's linguistic tapestry. 


Though smaller in numbers, Cantonese adds its voice to Singapore's vibrant linguistic choir. Born in Guangdong Province, its distinct tones and vocabulary paint a unique sonic picture.

Imagine Singlish infused with Guangzhou whispers, creating a playful dance of languages. This dialect isn't just words; it's a testament to the diverse Chinese tapestry woven into Singapore's identity, keeping its echoes alive through generations.


Teochew, a melody born in China's Chaoshan region, adds its harmony to Singapore's vibrant soundscape. Whispered amongst the Teochew community, it's more than just words exchanged. It's a legacy passed down, preserving cultural identity.

Like Hokkien and Cantonese, it enriches the symphony of Chinese dialects in Singapore, each a testament to the nation's diverse heritage. 


More than just words, Hakka carries the whispers of history in Singapore. This dialect has its roots in several provinces of China, including Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi. Spoken by the Hakka community, its roots traverse multiple Chinese provinces, from Guangdong's bustling shores to Fujian's fertile fields.

Today, it resonates among families, preserving a heritage forged in resilience and resourcefulness. This unique dialect adds another vibrant thread to the Lion City's linguistic tapestry, reminding us of the diverse communities that call Singapore home.


More than just official words, Malay is the soul song of Singapore's identity. As the national language, it beats within the Malay community, preserving heritage and fostering connection. Its echoes resonate beyond ethnicity, representing the nation's deep ties to the Malay Archipelago.

This vibrant language isn't just spoken; it's woven into the tapestry of culture, shaping traditions and enriching national pride. From bustling markets to intimate conversations, Malay reminds us of Singapore's diverse heart and its unique place in Southeast Asia.


Tamil, an official language of Singapore's Indian community, isn't just words, it's a vibrant tapestry. Echoing in classrooms, media, and cultural celebrations, it connects generations and preserves heritage. But this tapestry isn't singular.

Tamil speakers hail from diverse corners of India and Sri Lanka, bringing unique threads of dialects and traditions. This confluence enriches Singapore, adding layers of flavor to its cultural landscape. From rhythmic Carnatic music to lively conversations, Tamil weaves itself into the Lion City's identity, a vibrant reminder of its multicultural soul.

What other languages are spoken in Singapore?

Beyond the official languages of Singapore, Singapore is home to a wide array of languages spoken by its immigrant and expatriate communities.


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Bengali is spoken by the Bengali community in Singapore, consisting of immigrants from Bangladesh and West Bengal in India. It is used in cultural and religious contexts and contributes to the multicultural dialogue within the country.


Hindi, an official language of India, is spoken by a significant portion of the Indian diaspora in Singapore. It is used in media, education, and cultural events, reflecting the diverse origins of the Indian community.


Punjabi is spoken by the Sikh community in Singapore. It is used in religious ceremonies, cultural events, and within the family, preserving the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Punjabi diaspora.


Malayalam is spoken by the Malayalee community, originating from the state of Kerala in India. It is part of the rich tapestry of Indian languages that enrich Singapore's multicultural landscape.


Telugu is spoken by the Telugu-speaking community from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India. It is used in cultural, religious, and community events, contributing to the diversity of the Indian languages spoken in Singapore.


The Filipino community in Singapore speaks Tagalog and other Philippine languages. These languages are used in social and community gatherings, reflecting the vibrant culture of the Filipino diaspora.


Singapore's linguistic diversity is a testament to its multicultural heritage. From the official languages of Singapore, like English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil, to the colloquial charm of Singlish and the myriad languages spoken by its immigrant communities, Singapore embodies a world of languages in a single city-state. This linguistic richness enhances Singapore's global connectivity and cultural depth, making it a unique and dynamic place where languages and cultures meet and flourish.

If you want to expand your business into Singapore but are having a hard time doing so, you can work with our professional localization team as we’re experienced in creating localized strategies for multiculturally diverse countries like Singapore.

By Clarriza Heruela

Clarriza Mae Heruela graduated from the University of the Philippines Mindanao with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, majoring in Creative Writing. Her experience from growing up in a multilingually diverse household has influenced her career and writing style. She is still exploring her writing path and is always on the lookout for interesting topics that pique her interest.



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