All in all, Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. This shows the diversity of culture in Singapore. Many expats, particularly those on a short-term assignment, do not make the effort to pick up any of the so-called mother tongue languages because English is widely spoken. This is especially the case in business environments. However, the dominant language in many homes is still Mandarin or another Chinese dialect.
The English that is spoken in Singapore is not always easy to understand, though. You will likely encounter the so-called “Singlish” dialect — an English-based creole language. While the government does not officially recognize it, the language is used by many Singaporeans as a demonstration of their Singaporean identity. So don’t be surprised when you hear “shiok”, the Singlish word for great! Younger Singaporeans are often well-versed in different languages. This is also due to the various mother tongue programs in Singapore’s schools.
Because of the many different languages which are spoken in Singapore, there are lots of language schools and independent language teachers all over the city-state. Many of them offer lessons in Mandarin, Malay, or other languages like French or Japanese. The advantage of learning a new language, particularly an Asian language, is that in Singapore you have the chance to learn from native speakers and practice more or less on a daily basis.
Which type of instruction you choose is really up to you. Of course, private lessons are very effective because the teacher can adjust the lesson plans to your needs. On the downside, they are also very costly. Some universities offer language classes as well. However, they are designed for students and cater to larger groups. The courses at language schools are usually taught by experienced instructors and are often considered the best choice.
As mentioned above, Singapore has a variety of language schools, university courses, and independent teachers who will gladly help you improve your Mandarin or learn Japanese. This may also be an advantage during your job search in Singapore. At the end of the day, it is your choice whether you want to take private lessons or choose one of the many language institutes.
Because of the sheer abundance of options, we cannot list all of them. However, we want to list some of the schools which offer Mandarin lessons, as this is one of the most popular and useful languages expats in Singapore choose to pick up.
In any case, it is worth visiting our Singapore Forum to enquire what experiences other expats have had with certain schools.
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