Jaya is at the airport, waiting for Jane to arrive from England…
Voice on
tannoy: This is a call for Jane Wheeler, arriving from Manchester on flight PQ004. Would Jane Wheeler please come to the information desk?
Jane: Hello, I’m Jane. Are you Jaya, by any chance?
Jaya: Yes I am! Hi Jane! I’m Jaya from HotDotCom.
Pleased to meet you.
Jane: Jaya?… Ah yes, you’re the Webmaster, aren’t you?
Pleased to meet you, too!
Jaya: Oh – looks like we’re going to need a big cab…

In the taxi, on the way to Jane’s hotel…

Driver: This way can?
Jaya: No, lah! – this way cannot! Miss turn already! Mus u-turn back!
Driver: Traffic heavy already – cannot change lane!
Jaya: Now mus enter CBD and pay ERP!
Jane: Oh dear! Are we breaking the law or something?
Jaya: Don’t worry, Jane.
Jaya: (To driver) Here! Pass red light. Now all the way straight.
Driver: Drive up or what?

Jane has just checked in at her hotel…

Jane: Thanks for meeting me, Jaya. I hope I’m going to manage all right in Singapore. I didn’t realise I’d have to learn Chinese to work here.
Jaya: (Puzzled) Chinese?
Jane: Or was it Malay? Anyway, you seem to have picked it up so well, or Did you learn it before you left India?
Jaya: (Still puzzled) Learn what?
Narrator: Well, our new colleague seems to be confused before she’s even unpacked her bag…
Hello. I’m Mei Ling – and I’m the boss of HotDotCom. Our business is growing and Jane is one of two new members of staff I’ve taken on.
First impressions are very important; in her first few hours in Singapore, Jane has heard mostly ‘Singlish’ – and she’s clearly not impressed…
Driver: This way can?
Jaya: No, lah! – this way cannot! Miss turn already! Mus u-turn back!
Narrator: Jaya – now he’s been in Singapore for some time, so he and the taxi-driver can banter in Singlish. But, like many other people in Singapore, he is much more comfortable speaking good English such as this:
Jaya: Can we go this way?
Jane: No, we can’t. We’ve missed the turn, so you’ll have to turn round.
Narrator: The way that Singlish sounds to non-Singaporeans makes it seem more like a foreign language.


Jane: I didn’t realise I’d have to learn Chinese to work here.
Jaya: (Puzzled) Chinese?
Jane: Or was it Malay?
Narrator: It’s spoken quickly, and doesn’t have the features of good English that people outside Singapore are used to hearing. This creates a very poor first impression for visitors, customers from overseas and well-spoken Singaporeans.
It can also sound very bossy, and uses terms that you only find in Singapore, like ERP and ‘all the way straight’.
Jaya: What I should’ve said is:
‘Go through the next set of traffic lights, then straight on.’
Narrator: Because we want to give people the best possible impression of Singapore, speaking good English has an important role to play.
Jaya: That’s right, Mei Ling – and that’s why we’ve created this series of telephone lessons – to help Singaporeans understand why Singlish is inappropriate.
Narrator: And to point out some common mistakes and offer alternative ways of saying things.
Jaya: So dial in tomorrow and catch up with the team at HotDotCom for lesson number 2!

Quiz Point:
The taxi driver sounded very aggressive when he asked: “Drive up or what?” A good English speaker would make a properly-formed question. In this situation, “Shall I drive up?” would be correct.


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