English may be an official spoken language in Singapore, but Singaporean-English (Singlish), an informal, colloquial form of English, has become the language of the street. Singlish evolved out of Singapore’s multiethnic society, with the intonation and sentence structure of Singlish influenced by Chinese dialects primarily spoken in Singapore, such as Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew. The local language is also peppered with vocabulary and phrases borrowed from the Malay and Indonesian languages.
Among Singaporeans, Singlish tends to be spoken in informal situations—with friends and family, indicating casual gatherings. English, on the other hand, is used for formal situations—at school or at work, especially when meeting foreigners. The sentence endings “lah” (to express exasperation), “leh” (to express doubt) and “lor” (to express indifference) are also commonly heard in Singlish conversations.