Colloquial Singaporean Mandarin
Native speakers
1.5 million+ (estimate)
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Colloquial Singaporean Mandarin, commonly known as Singdarin[a] or Singnese,[b] is a Mandarin dialect native and unique to Singapore similar to its English-based counterpart Singlish. It is based on Mandarin but has a large amount of English and Malay in its vocabulary. There are also words from other Chinese languages such as Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew as well as Tamil.[3] While Singdarin grammar is largely identical to Standard Mandarin, there are significant divergences and differences especially in its pronunciation and vocabulary.

The Singaporean government had previously discouraged the use of Singdarin in favour of Standard Singaporean Mandarin under the Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC), as it believed in the need for Singaporeans to be able to communicate effectively with other Chinese speakers from mainland China, Taiwan or other Sinophone regions. However, such campaigns have been toned down in recent years in response to push-back by Singaporeans, expressing the uniqueness of Singdarin in Singaporean culture.[4]

Today, Singdarin remains often used and is commonly spoken in colloquial speech in Singapore and occasionally even on local television, and most Chinese-speaking Singaporeans are able to code-switch between Singdarin and Standard Mandarin, likewise with most Singaporeans in general with Singlish and standard Singapore English. Furthermore, most non-Chinese Singaporeans are also generally able to understand or speak Singdarin due to many of its phrases and words being widely used in common parlance throughout Singapore, including words which were initially not of Mandarin origin but subsequently adopted into Singdarin.


It is believed that Singadrin, like Singlish, further developed due to the government's policy of high density public housing of Singaporeans of different ethnic groups living together.
It is believed that Singadrin, like Singlish, further developed due to the government's policy of high density public housing of Singaporeans of different ethnic groups living together.

See also: Demographics of Singapore and Public housing in Singapore

Like its Singlish equivalent, Singdarin evolved because many Singaporean Chinese families come from mixed language environments. For instance, children may be raised in households in which one parent speaks English or Malay while the other speaks Chinese or coming for other Chinese dialects, such as Hokkien or Cantonese. Indian languages such as Tamil were also commonly heard in such environments.[5]

Singdarin has also evolved largely because Singapore is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society. One of the most important policies of the Singaporean government is to foster social cohesion and multi-ethnic harmony, and prevent neglected areas or districts and ethnic enclaves from developing.

Therefore, instead of letting certain ethnic groups to live in isolated communities like they did in the past, the Singapore government encourages the majority of Singaporeans that live in state HDB housing to be a melting pot of Chinese, Malays, Indians and other different ethnicities who speak different languages. This is believed to reduce differences between the diverse linguistic and ethnic groups in Singapore, and to ensure racial harmony.[6]

As the majority of Singaporeans live in such housing environments, which have families coming from various linguistic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, there is a tendency for different languages to be mixed in order to facilitate more effective communication between the different races. In short, it leads to the creation of a hybrid culture (known colloquially as the Singaporean "rojak" culture).[5]

This and the tendency for the Singaporean Chinese people to use the mixed language that they use at home in daily colloquial conversation has since influenced the Mandarin spoken in schools, resulting in "Singdarin" being formed. It was in this environment that Singdarin developed.

Examples of Singdarin dialogue

Below are some examples of Singdarin dialogue spoken amongst some Chinese Singaporeans.

Singdarin dialogue English translation Standard Mandarin
你的(nǐde) office (zài) 哪里(nǎlǐ) Where is your office? 您的办公室在哪里?
Raffles Place, (hěn) 靠近(kàojìn) MRT.1 Raffles Place, located near the MRT station. 莱佛士坊,在地铁站附近/离地铁站不远
() (zài) 那边(nàbiān) (zuò) 多久(duōjiǔ) (le) How long have you been working there? 你在那里工作多久了?
() (tài) (jiǔ) six months. () (xiǎng) find another job. Not long, 6 months. I'm thinking of finding another job. 没多久,六个月。我想找一份新(的)工作
Maybe 明年(míngnián) when () complete 我的(wǒde) accounting course Maybe next year when I complete my accounting course 可能明年我修完会计课程之后
But () (yào) () 吃饭(chīfàn) But I'm going for my dinner 不过我要去吃饭

1 Usually the word 'station' is omitted.

English loanwords

The following are the common English loan words used in Singdarin.

English loanwords Standard Mandarin words Examples of usage
but 不过 / 但(是) / 可(是) But 他很聪明leh! (But he's very clever!)
then 然后 Then, 他就来了! (Then he comes!)
actually 其实 Actually, 我本来要去的! (Actually, I wanted to go there!)
share 共享 / 分 / 分享 Eh!蛋糕可以跟我share吗? (Can you share your cake with me?)
blur (Singlish) 搞不清楚状况 / 模糊不清 你知道吗?他弄到我很blur! (Do you know he makes all at sea?)
anyway/anyhow 无论如何 / 不管怎(么)样 Anyway, 我一定要/该去! (Anyway, I must go!)
That's why 所以 / 于是 That's why 我很讨厌他! (That's why I hate him!)

Loanwords from other languages

Just like Singlish, certain words used in Singlish are also interchangeably used in Singdarin.

Loanwords Standard Mandarin words Definition Notes Example of usage
buay tahan 受不了 cannot tolerate formed by combination of Hokkien word "beh 𣍐/" (cannot) and Malay word "tahan" (tolerate) 哇!袂 tahan 咧! (wa, beh tahan leh!) [Wow, I cannot tolerate it!]
sibeh 非常 very/damn originate from Teochew (死父, literally meaning dead father and hence in such a context, "on my dead father") and has the general meaning of 'damn'. sibeh sian![Very boring!]
walao eh 我的天啊! my gosh/oh my god originate from Singaporean Hokkien vulgar word "wa lan eh 我𡳞呃/我膦呃" (literally 'my dick'). "Wa lau eh 我老呃" (literally 'my father') is a more polite variant of it. Walao eh, 你怎么可以这样? [My god, how can you be like that?]
guai lan 令人讨厌的家伙 annoying/irritating person originate from Singaporean Hokkien vulgar word "guai lan 怪𡳞/怪膦" (literally 'strange dick'). 他sibeh guai lan的! [He is an annoying person!]
sua ku 井底之蛙 someone who has not been exposed to the society and is not well-informed about many things from Hokkien word "suaku 山龟" (literally "tortoise on the mountain") 这个人很sua ku! [This guy is a tortoise on the mountain]
salah 错/坏掉了 incorrect/something went wrong from Malay 计算机salah了 ! [Something went wrong with the computer]
ulu 偏僻 remote from Malay 这个地方这么 ulu ,连一只鬼影都没有! [That place is very remote, not a single ghost (person) around!]
terok 难搞/困难 troublesome from Malay 那位顾客sibeh terok! [That customer is very troublesome!]
sibei jialat 非常(真假)麻烦 really difficult from Hokkien 那个东西不懂被谁弄到乱七八糟,sibei jialat! [Somebody has made a huge mess of that thing, which makes things really difficult for us!]

Usage of English technical terms

Since English is the main working and educational language of Singapore, many Chinese Singaporeans are more familiar with the English professional terminology (technical terms) used at work, rather than that of Mandarin. This led to many Chinese Singaporeans tending to mix large number of English professional terms into Mandarin at work, instead of using Chinese technical terms. As such, a form of Singdarin spoken at work appears, resulting in some degree of communication barrier at work between the Chinese Singaporeans and the Chinese from China or Taiwan.

Comparison between Singdarin spoken at work in Singapore and Mandarin spoken at work in China is shown below:

Singdarin spoken at work in Singapore[7] Mandarin spoken at work in China[7] English translation
你的 cable tray 要从 ceiling 上走。 你的电线桥架要在吊顶天花板上铺设。 Your cable tray needs to be lined up along the ceiling
Server room 里面的 fire sprinkler 拆了,你们的 fire department 会allow吗? 机房里面的消防喷淋拆了,你们的消防部门会批准吗? If you dismantle the fire sprinkler inside the server room, will the fire department approve it?
今天 sibeh 热咧! Buay Tahan 啦! 今天的天气太热了!我忍受不了了! The weather today is too hot! It's unbearable!

See also


  1. ^ simplified Chinese: 新加坡式华语; traditional Chinese: 新加坡華語; pinyin: Xīnjiāpōshì Huáyǔ; Wade–Giles: hsin1 chia1 p'o1 shih4 hua23[1]
  2. ^ Chinese: 星式中文; pinyin: Xīngshì Zhōngwén; Wade–Giles: hsing1 shih4 chung1 wen2; lit. 'Sing[apore] colloquial Chinese language'[2]


  1. ^ "中文·外来语来聚"掺"". 《三联生活周刊》. Archived from the original on 12 September 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  2. ^ 顧長永 (Gu Changyong) (25 July 2006). 《新加坡: 蛻變的四十年》 (Singapore: The Changing Forty Years). Taiwan: 五南圖書出版股份有限公司. p. 54. ISBN 978-957-11-4398-9.
  3. ^ "重视新加坡本土华语的文化意义 (Attending to the cultural significance of Colloquial Singaporean Mandarin)". 華語橋 (Huayuqiao). Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  4. ^ Cavallaro, Francesco; Seilhamer, Mark Fifer; Yen Yee, Ho; Bee Chin, Ng (10 August 2018). "Attitudes to Mandarin Chinese varieties in Singapore". Journal of Asian Pacific Communication. 28 (2): 195–225. doi:10.1075/japc.00010.cav. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b Kaur, Tarra. "11 Things You Should Know About Singaporean Culture". Culture Trip. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Ethnic Integration Policy and SPR Quota - Housing & Development Board (HDB)". Housing and Development Board (HDB). Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  7. ^ a b "新加坡式华语". 联合早报网. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2010.