I have invited a guest blogger to share this article. Iris was an active blogger with a large following and she shares her life experience. It was through that blog that I got to know her, and privileged to be her wedding day photographer. She closed down her blog to concentrate on building up her family and career. She has recently started a baking blog and a Facebook page of doll clothes.
I am very inspired to do a Chinese compilation of Singaporean Mandarin and Malaysian Mandarin. I am not very good in my Chinese, but I think I am good enough to make a simple compilation for the two distinctly different and unique Mandarins.
I was born a Malaysian, grew up in Malaysia but received my education in Singapore. I travelled to and fro the JB-Woodlands causeway from Primary 1 to Secondary 2, after which I moved to Singapore. I worked in Singapore but I have many Malaysian colleagues. I married a Singaporean and I have two lovely and beautiful Singaporean children. One of my rare but amazing “talents” is that I have the ability to switch from Singapore Mandarin accent to Malaysian mandarin accent naturally and fluently. Some of my Malaysian friends who had been in Singapore for a long time can do this too, but most of them cannot control which accent to use. Some have to rely on who they are talking to, and in reciprocal, they will use the same accent to engage in that conversation, while others will switch accent depending on the country they are in (Singapore or Malaysia). I can be so good, that I can talk in both accents in a 3-party conversation involving me, a Singaporean Chinese and a Malaysian Chinese, switching between the two accents simultaneously. Those who know me long enough can vouch for me.
Majority of Singaporean Chinese incorporate English words into their spoken Mandarin, I have great difficulties searching for the Singapore counterparts for many unique Malaysian common terms during my course of compilation. My list below is not irrefutable and I may not be 100% correct, because of our close proximity, I do encounter Singaporean friends saying certain things the Malaysian way and vice versa. I did the compilation out of personal interest; I do not meant to imply which Mandarin is more superior or inferior than the other.
I observed that Singaporean Mandarin is heavily influenced by Singlish and the local dialects, mainly Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese, and many sayings are borrowed from the English and Malay Languages. Throughout the generations, Singaporean Mandarin had deviated far from the Standardised Mandarin or Putonghua used in Mainland China. Singaporean Mandarin bears the closest resemblance to Malaysian Mandarin. Malaysian mandarin has a stronger accent than Singaporean Mandarin, mostly emphasizing on the 3rd tone and 4th tone (Hanyu Pingyin), there is hardly any light tone (“qing shen” 轻声) or retroflex (“qiao she ying” 翘舌音). Although both Mandarins are distinctly different in their accent (tones), it is interesting to note that each country has their own colloquialism.
Many Singaporean find televised variety show programs featuring Malaysian Mandarin entertaining, I agree it did bring laughter to many people. I applauded their efforts to imitate the accent, like all language, it is not an easy feat. Nonetheless, people fluent with Malaysian Mandarin, like me, would easily spot mistakes in the featured Malaysian Mandarin used in such shows. This is simply because Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese would have said certain things differently.
The differences between the two Mandarins do not stop at just their distinct tones or by simply adding the word “几” (“ji”) in front of each expression.
Let me give you a scenario, Singaporean Chinese Family placed their order at a Malaysia restaurant and asked for some hot and cold water to be served to them, they will usually call for 烧水、冷水… but any Malaysian Chinese would had called the same thing, 滚水 and冰水 respectively.
Here is my humble list of compilation (feel free to comment):
零钱 / 散钱
桥婆 / 发桥
出街 / 走街
煮水 / 烧水
有趣 / 可爱
桥婆 / 发桥
Thanks Iris for her article! If you have any comments, feel free to post below so that she can respond.