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sven

Travelled to 12 countries / regions

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Lived and worked in Singapore for 2 years

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Asia > Singapore > Useful Info
Submitted on Sep 10, 2019 Useful Info

What language to use in Singapore to get around easily

  • Singapore is majority Chinese, but it's actually a super multicultural society. As a result of that, there are also multiple languages being used on a day-to-day basis
  • The official language of Malay, but English and Mandarin Chinese are the two most commonly spoken languages in Singapore
  • English will be used for any official (government) business. English is also the main language of business and education. For tourists, getting through customs and immigration, or anything remotely tourism-related stuff will be able to be conducted in English. If you're an English speaker, you will be fine 95% of the time. Also, most Singaporeans aren't just passable at English (like in Thailand, Vietnam, for example). They actually speak pretty much native-level English because it's the language used in schools and universities
  • Mandarin Chinese is probably the most widely used day-to-day language among locals in non-business settings and in communities. Most people who speak Mandarin will also be able to speak English, so I'd say the only time you have to speak Mandarin is if you're going to a smaller Chinese restaurant (which are often delicious) which may have some staff who only speak Mandarin. Of course, if you prefer to speak Mandarin, you will find that you can get around with only Mandarin just as easy as you can get around with only English


  • Aside from English and Mandarin, you can also speak Malay and Tamil in many places. But the usage of these two languages will be limited to their respective ethnic groups and most tourists likely won't find any need for them. Malay is used by 11% of the population, and Tamil is used by 3% of the population


  • Language used on signs:
  • Most signs are English only, including all street signs
  • Many signs will also have simplified Chinese below English
  • A smaller number of signs will have all four commonly-used languages (English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil)