MNN Galleries

9 exotic places where English is widely spoken

By: Josh Lew on Nov. 6, 2013, 3:28 p.m.
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One of Southeast Asia's most prosperous nations, the tiny city state of Singapore is home to 4 million people. Three different ethnic groups make up most of the population. As a former British colony, English has long been the main language of communication between these different groups. Each child in Singapore learns English alongside their “mother tongue” in school (Mandarin for the Chinese population, Tamil for the Indian population, and Malaysian for Singaporeans of Malay descent). The result: almost everyone, save the very elderly, can speak English fluently.

Singaporean street English, often called Singlish, uses Chinese grammatical structures and is sprinkled with Chinese and Malay words. It is mostly understandable once you can grasp the rhythm and the sometimes-strange word order. All Singaporeans are able to switch between this local vernacular and standard English, which they learned in school.