Posted by: u4579278 | September 2, 2009

Ruby Pan – Singapore accents


  • “a lot of them cannot speech leh”
  • “jiak kentang” – jiak (hokkien/fujian/min nan for “eat”), kentang (malay for “potato”), implying westernisation or wanting to speak like a Caucasian English first language user, has negative connotations
  • “bu hui jiang” – mandarin for “cannot speak”
  • “ang moh” – wikipedia link, generally it means Caucasian
  • The last accent is Filipino.
  • “bibi” – the word is “baby”
  • “natzis” – the word is “nonsense”


  1. My step grandmother, bless her NPD self, has a far cruder term than “jiak kentang” — “Jiak ang mo sai”.

    “Ang moh” being Hokkien for ‘red hair’ or ‘Causasian’, as you pointed out
    “Sai” meaning ‘shit’ (!).

    From what I’ve heard, the Singaporean govt nearly eradicated Chinese dialects in the process of improving Mandarin and English standards.

    Finding one true “equilectal Singaporean English” (is that what she said? I couldn’t quite catch it) seems to be the next step process. They mean well, and are trying to advocate a form of multilingualism or code-switching, I suppose. They’re trying to ensure that Singaporeans know how to switch between informal ‘basilectal’ Singaporean English and something that is still holds on to Singaporean identity but more easily understood by a non-Singaporean.

    As a result, there’s a perceived hierarchy and I possibly reflects post-colonial countries coming to terms with national identity, especially one like Singapore which claims to be egalitarian and takes pride in being multiracial.

    As for the Filipino accent, well, most Singaporeans encounter the Filipino population as foreign maids. They’re also the most visible, so it’s the stereotype that is most familiar to her audience, so I’m not surprised she pulled it out. One could argue that it’s just humour, but there’s no denying that it comes from a position of power.

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