You can now use Singlish in your exams, but there’s a catch


Last Updated on 2016-06-23 , 12:27 pm

Always wanted to use Sabo and kiasu in your exams? Well, now you can!

Huh, simi sai?
No, it is not a prank, you can now use Singlish in your exams and there will be absolutely no penalty for doing so. So for example, if you write sentences such as “I have decided to ‘sabo’ my friend by telling everyone about what he did”; or “She is by nature a ‘kiasu’ person and will go to the airport five hours in advance” in a composition, you will not be penalised at all.

Why suddenly?
Well, recently, a number of Singlish words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Examples of a few of these words are “blur”, “lepak” and “sabo”. Other words like local favourites such as “chilli crab” and “char siu” showed Singaporeans’ love for food.

What’s so good about this?
Besides the whole idea of you being able to use Singlish in exams being exciting, it is also said to be a better way for students to express themselves. Think about it, sometimes we use Singlish because we cannot find an English word suitable enough to explain what we are feeling. “This food is delicious!” compared to “Wah, this food is shiok!”, I am sure you all know which is the winner.

It is also a great way for those of you who are struggling with English. Singlish can be a stepping stone to understanding some of the grammar rules and also, get more students to be interested in the language. Though some of you may argue that Singlish and English are two very different languages, I would say that by incorporating both, you can make it work.

Furthermore, experts, such as Dr Ludwig Tan, vice-dean at SIM University’s School of Arts and Social Sciences said that having some Singapore words in the OED adds colour and expressiveness to the English language. It definitely does, I must say.

Confirm got catch, right?
Yes, you are right, there is a catch. These Singlish words should be used appropriately and usually in direct speech, like the sentences shown above. For those who have left secondary school a long time ago, direct speech, in layman’s terms are sentences that are the actual words of a speaker, for example, “I’m going,” she said.

Also, standard grammar rules still apply to all the sentences you use. So if you are thinking of writing things like “Walao eh, why you like that?” or “Siao ah, you think I so smart meh”, sorry ah, cannot.

Do also keep in mind that the Singlish words can only be used for compositions and not formal communication. So please do not start saying things like “I think this boy is trying to ‘lepak’ in one corner after a long day,” for your picture description during oral. Once again, sorry ah, cannot.

So what’s next?
This news came out on June 13 in the Straits Times though there has not been any mention on when schools are going to introduce the new rules. However, it would be safe to say that by the end of the year, teachers would be marking compositions filled with ‘lah’, ‘shiok’ and many other awesome Singlish words.


With so many changes happening, who knows, maybe you university students can start writing your FYP reports in Singlish too!

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