Talk:Languages of Singapore

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Former good article nominee Languages of Singapore was a Language and literature good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
January 12, 2011 Good article nominee Not listed
WikiProject Singapore (Rated B-class, High-importance)
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Untitled section[edit]

Suggestions for an intuitive organisation of this page would be greatly appreciated! yueni 18:07, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Singapore as part of both anglosphere and sinosphere

This issue remains really controversial. Singapore's 1st language is English, but over 75% of the population are Chinese. Most of the Singaporeans are bi-lingual. They do not just speak English, but can also speak their respective mother tongue like Chinese, Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese etc. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Yhjow (talkcontribs) 15:12, 12 April 2009 (UTC)

If you actually read MM Lee's book from third world to first, he does say that english is singapore's main language, and that that us s'poreans relationship to speaking chinese is like the canadian's knowing french. yes they learn it, and can speak it, but the bottom line is, it is cery possible to live in s'pore knowing english only, but virtually impossible to not know english and live in s'pore. that is what english as a first language means. Nicholas.tan (talk) 00:32, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Though I have never disputed that English is Singapore's main and working language, I have never come across MM Lee saying that we are officially part of the Anglosphere. This does not mean that I disagree. An official citation is needed before this can be conclusively put down. Information I read regarding anglosphere points out that Singapore is part of the third layer of Anglosphere (i.e. referring to those former british colonial countries such as Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka). See the article by Professor 谢世涯 at

Secondly, I disagree with S'porean's relationship to speaking Chinese is like canadian's knowing french. Canada's french speaking population is largely concentrated in Quebec, and not throughout the entire Canada. But in Singapore, Chinese-speaking is widespread throughout the country, just like English or Singlish. It also appear in Chinese media, pop music, TV mobile in Bus. MM Lee himself launched the Speak Mandarin campaign and was responsible for supporting and making Chinese-speaking in Singapore widespread since 30 years ago. There are still significant number of Singaporeans who use English as 1st language at work, but who speak Chinese, Malay, Tamil or other languages at home. Yes, English is required in order to work and live in Singapore, but there are many other Non-English languages spoken in the Singapore's daily life, including Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Tamil, Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew etc.

Like the case of Anglosphere, there are also the controversial issue of Singapore being part of Sinosphere, The main argument for it is that 75% of Singaporeans are Chinese and Singapore is highly influenced by Confucianism or to quite a certain extent Chinese culture. Neverthless, English is the main language here. Like Anglosphere, Singapore is part of the third layer of Sinosphere (i.e. referring to those countries influenced by Confucianism, such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam). This argument seems to be quite conclusive, but like Anglosphere, an official citation is needed before we can include the concept of Singapore being part of both Anglosphere and Sinosphere in Wikipedia article. (Yhjow (talk) 05:11, 13 April 2009 (UTC))

I'm sorry but is there an english translation of that article? And for the record, the Straits Times referred to s'pore as a "predominantly english speaking society" (talk) 21:18, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

MM Lee's memoirs contrast Singapore with other former British colonies such as Malaysia, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. MM Lee argues that the adoption of local languages in those countries both disadvantaged them economically and is the root of ethnic strife because the majority races use language to disadvantage the minority races. Contrasting Singapore, MM Lee writes that the decision to make English Singapore's primary language has avoid the disasters -- economic and social -- in most other former British colonies. For example, MM Lee argues that the civil war in Sri Lanka was caused by decision to switch from English to Singhalese as the language of government because it meant that Tamils could no longer get government jobs. The Speak Mandarin campaign was not designed to get anyone to speak Mandarin instead of English, but rather to get ethnic Chinese Singaporeans (not other Singaporeans) to speak Mandarin rather than Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, etc. Mcarling (talk) 07:35, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Because many Singaporeans grew up with English as their first language in school.[edit]

Because many Singaporeans grew up with English as their first language in school, some may not be able to speak Mandarin.

That sentence does not make sense. Or at best, it implies that Chinese people speak Mandarin at home.

Because many Americans grew up with English as their first language in school, some Americans may not be able to speak Mandarin. Because many Australians grew up with English as their first language in school, some Australians may not be able to speak Mandarin.

You see? Speaking English at school does not explain why Australians, Americans, or Singaporeans can't speak Mandarin.

Lee Kuan Yew is an example of this: He doesn't speak Mandarin because his family didn't speak Mandarin. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:10, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Languages of Singapore/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Casliber (talk · contribs) 10:49, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

Okay, I'll make straightforward copyedits as I go and jot queries below: Casliber (talk · contribs) 10:49, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

  • The visibility of English was also heightened through heavy usage by successful media outlets - like...what?
  • Primary 1 - link or explain
  • Mandarin Chinese section needs ref for first two paras
  • The English as the main language section doesn't give me an idea on how/where one might hear official English, Singapore English, or Singlish. A few sentences here for overview would be very helpful.
  • In the Media and the arts section, I don't get a sense of what proportion of TV, radio, newspapers and magazines are in English vs Mandarin. Important to add as the sections following are quite detailed about chinese dialects, so some balance is needed.

1. Well written?:

Prose quality:
Manual of Style compliance:

2. Factually accurate and verifiable?:

References to sources:
Citations to reliable sources, where required: - see above; some bits need inline referencing
No original research:

3. Broad in coverage?:

Major aspects: - see above. I think the holes need explaining.

4. Reflects a neutral point of view?:

Fair representation without bias:

5. Reasonably stable?

No edit wars, etc. (Vandalism does not count against GA):

6. Illustrated by images, when possible and appropriate?:

Images are copyright tagged, and non-free images have fair use rationales:
Images are provided where possible and appropriate, with suitable captions:


Pass or Fail: - Sad to say, I am going to fail this now as the nominator nor anyone from the Singapore wikiproject have taken up the offer of fixing the issues. I don't think it'd take too much to get this to GA, but definitely would benefit from the input of someone knowledgeable on the subject. Anyway, a new editor can see this sometime and find things to fix readily. Casliber (talk · contribs) 08:09, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Reviewer: steveielts (talk · contribs) --Steveielts (talk) 13:57, 28 January 2016 (UTC) I disagree. There is an assumed understanding that a Singaporean Chinese person should actually speak Chinese, but there is no such assumption that an American should speak Chinese. An improved sentence structure might be: Because many Singaporean Chinese grew up with English as their first language in school, some of them may not be able to speak Mandarin. Still though, it requires tweaking. What does 'first language' mean? The most accepted meaning is the language that we first learn to communicate with. So then why refer solely to the first language being used in school? Perhaps the following sentence makes better sense: Because many Singaporean Chinese grew up with English as their first language and the language of instruction at school, some of them may not be able to speak Mandarin.

Issues with 'overview' of change at the end[edit]

I suspect that this should be redone to provide more factual statistics. For example, I have the following, from Bradshaw's '100 Years of Singapore', fortunately preserved at [1]:

"In January 1824 the first census was taken. The population consisted of 10,683 persons, and included 74 Europeans, 4,580 Malays, and 3,317 Chinese."

Similar source material exists in Song Ong Siang's history of the Chinese in Singapore. However, none of this has been examined and so we have this odd linear chart (1800, 1900, 2000) which does not reflect the reality of the situation. If I had the time I'd go through it all. But I'm afraid work commitments will delay that. Brythain (talk) 18:21, 20 February 2011 (UTC)

Increase or decline?[edit]

"While the Singapore government states that bilingualism in English and Mandarin is increasing, in reality, multilingualism is in decline", quoth the article. That's a pretty big claim, do we have better sources for this? Jpatokal (talk) 22:27, 27 December 2011 (UTC)

I'm not aware of a secondary source, though I guess we could find something in an article by Straits Times reporting on census data. M Carling 18:51, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Chinese writing[edit]

I suppose that the written Chinese taught in Singapore is Simplified Chinese like used in the People's Republic of China, not Traditional Chinese as used in the Republic of China, but I can't find that anywhere in the article. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to specify this? The Seventh Taylor (talk) 01:29, 11 November 2012 (UTC)

Yes, so be bold and add it! Also, this article seems to have an axe to grind against Singapore's alleged dialect policy. We don't need whole sections dedicated to "Dialect preservation issues", "'Stupid' to advocate the learning of dialects", "Dialects in local films", and "Renewed interest in learning dialects", especially in contrast to the singular "Treatment of Indian languages". Shrigley (talk) 04:55, 13 November 2012 (UTC)
Not so fast there -- the discrepancy is mostly because it's Sing gov't policy to actively suppress Chinese dialects other than Mandarin, while Indian languages are merrily ignored. Jpatokal (talk) 12:27, 13 November 2012 (UTC)
Regarding Chinese writing, there was a link to the article Singapore Chinese Characters that I had overlooked. I have now lifted the introduction from that article and restructured the piece a little. The Seventh Taylor (talk) 22:33, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

MM Lee said English is the Master Language. In order to progress academically or career one must master the Engish Language in Singapore.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Khelmi Famri (talkcontribs) 09:21, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

Constitutional Provisions[edit]

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore PART XIII GENERAL PROVISIONS (2) The national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in the Roman script: — Preceding unsigned comment added by Khelmi Famri (talkcontribs) 09:21, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

XIII(2) is merely an honorary designation and has no relationship with actual use for either official or private purposes. M Carling 18:49, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Languages of Singapore/GA2. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: White whirlwind (talk · contribs) 19:21, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

I'm going to list some issues here that I feel prevent this article from being made a GA.

  • The lead really needs a nice image, I would recommend one of some signage in Singapore showing its linguistic diversity.
  • This article suffers from the unfortunate and common illness of its lead not being a particularly good summary of the article's contents. It's more of a mini History section at this point. I also suggest opening with a lead that allows incorporation of the article's title in bold letters, as is customary on Wikipedia: "The main languages of Singapore are, as defined by its Constitution, English, Malay, [etc. etc.]".
  • I find it odd that the "Dialect Preservation Issues" subsection and its following section, the poorly titled "'Stupid' to ...." and "Renewed Interest" section, are in the "Media" section and not the "Social and Political Issues".
  • I would also like to see the addition of some more inline citations and a few good images, if possible, before this is passed.  White Whirlwind  咨  19:21, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the review. Kindly note that Singapore is currently busy with preparations for Hari Raya Puasa. Do you think the image of the sign in the "Bilingualism and multilingualism" section would be better placed in the lead section? Please tag statements that need inline citations. --Hildanknight (talk) 17:21, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Note: No edits have been made to this article in over two weeks. Is it safe to say it's been abandoned? Tezero (talk) 05:56, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

I moved a few sections as the reviewer requested, then asked a question about an image and requested the reviewer tag specific statements that need inline citations. Waiting for a response from the reviewer. --Hildanknight (talk) 09:49, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
All of my suggestions need to be implemented before we proceed to a reevaluation (the lead, for example). Regarding inline citations, I think there should be a minimum of one citation per paragraph.  White Whirlwind  咨  22:49, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I was not asking you to evaluate the article again. I was asking you for clarifications. To improve the article, I need feedback that is more specific. For example, if the lead "really needs a nice image", then do you think the image of the quadrilingual warning sign would be better place there? Your requests for "a few good images" and "one inline citation per paragraph" far exceed the GA criteria, so if you insist on them, I insist on seeking another opinion (or even another reviewer). --Hildanknight (talk) 06:55, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
I think the warning sign is not a good lead image, it's unevenly shot and not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing. The GA criteria state that GA articles must be "Illustrated by images", and this article only has three even though it is quite long. There's no reason more couldn't be easily found for this article.
Please implement the feedback in my second bullet point, the lead is a very important part of a WP article.
The GA criteria state that inline citations are needed "for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons" (bold added by me). The first half of the article is much better cited than the second half. For example, I can easily find a number of "statistical", "published opinion", or "counter-intuitive" statements that are currently unsourced, for example:
  • "The majority of Singaporeans are bilingual in English and one of the other three official languages."
  • "However, Malay in turn is facing competition from English."
  • "The declining standards and command of Chinese language amongst younger generations of Chinese Singaporeans continue to be of concern to the older generations of Chinese Singaporeans, as they perceive it to be an erosion of Chinese culture and heritage."
The amount of the above-mentioned unsourced material in the "Sociolinguistic issues" section is particularly egregious. Please note that, per the GA criteria, a GA nominee may be immediately failed if "It has cleanup banners that are obviously still valid." This section has one, and thus no matter how many reviewers User:Hildanknight seeks out or remonstrates with, this article cannot possibly be passed until more work is done. Here are just a few of the many problematic areas in this section:
  • "Some Singaporeans had argued that linguistically, Singapore was even more multilingual in the 1950s compared to today. Dialect preservationists had criticized Singapore's bilingual policy for causing the language decline of Chinese dialects in Singapore. Some Singaporeans had criticized that the bilingual education of Singapore was not successful in making sure the Singaporeans are good in both English and the mother tongue."
  • "Chinese culture and dialect preservationists in Singapore worry that the declining use of dialects might lead to the eventual death of dialects in Singapore."
  • "However, the vast majority of older Chinese Singaporeans can only speak in the other Chinese languages and have little or no proficiency in Mandarin. Because of this a language barrier is formed between them and their grandparents. Chinese culture and dialect preservationists in Singapore worry that the declining use of dialects might lead to the eventual death of dialects in Singapore."
For the reasons listed above, I am failing Symbol unsupport vote.svg this article's attempt at GA status. I encourage the nominator, Hildanknight, to spend some time improving the article according to my and other editors' suggestions, and then to renominate the article at some point in the future.  White Whirlwind  咨  21:18, 24 August 2014 (UTC)


Hi everyone,

Just thought we would put it out here that we will be doing some edits here and there on this page for the next week or so based on the discussion on the Talk page regarding how this article can be better written as a Good Article. We would like to work on improving the credibility and relevance of this page.

We are a group of four third year linguistics students from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and this is part of a group project we are doing for the course HG2052: Language, Tech and the Internet. This project is done under the guidance and supervision of our professor, Francis Bond.

Our group members are jackiebongz, Danielseoh, Charlonator and Rowlingrowing. We welcome comments and feedback that can aid us in the betterment of this page! Thank you. Jackiebongz (talk) 07:33, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

Brief Review[edit]

My students revised this page for a course (HG2052: Language, Technology and the Internet) and I am adding a couple of comments as part of the final review. Francis Bond (talk) 12:49, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

  • nice inclusion of the linguistic landscapes with illustrations
  • the lede is a little long
  • it still needs references for the discussion of the use of vernaculars in campaigning
  • apart from the above I think that the page now fulfills all of the GA Criteria

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