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Languages for Expats in Singapore

Submitted: December 2013

Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil with English and Mandarin the most widely spoken. An expat would be advised to ensure they have a comprehensive knowledge in either one or both of them as most locals speak more than one language.

English language courses are widely available via the internet as distance learning projects and can enable individuals to gain a good standard of knowledge. A good starting point is the ‘learn English’ website from the British Council: (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/).  Cambridge English, part of Cambridge University (https://www.cambridgeenglish.org), offers a comprehensive range of language courses designed for beginners, intermediates and those who wish to gain an English language qualification. These qualifications are recognised by many businesses.

For expats wishing to learn Mandarin, https://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/chinese/real_chinese/ and https://www.chinese-tools.com/learn/chinese are a good starting point. Verbal Planet https://www.verbalplanet.com) offers online courses using Skype for conversation practice and feedback from tutors. Very basic language skills can be learnt via https://www.learnchineseez.com/lessons/mandarin/where the user can listen to and then repeat words and phrases. The learner also has the option to link up with a tutor for lessons via Skype charged at hourly rates.

Malay is widely spoken in Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei and an expat might want to consider learning basic Malay. Living and working in Singapore lends itself to exploring the wider area and having knowledge of Malay would therefore be very advantageous when travelling out of Singapore. Individuals can benefit from free online lessons here: https://malay.pgoh13.com/

There are many schools within Singapore offering classroom tuition in Malay. One of these is Inlingua School of languages and their website can be found here: https://www.inlingua.edu.sg/en/home.aspx?lang=en&menu=L&menuid=home.

Once in Singapore, expats can choose from a number of language schools to learn any of the four official languages. Lingo School of knowledge (https://www.lingo.edu.sg/) offers language tuition ranging from the official languages of Singapore, to Spanish, Hindi, Turkish etc. For English or Mandarin tuition, courses are offered on a full-time or part-time basis and a student can choose from private classes or bigger group classes. As part of the syllabus students will also learn about culture and customs in Singapore. Mandarin courses are tailored to teach work and social communication.

Another language school is The Cambridge Language School (https://www.cambridge.com.sg/index.htm) which also offers part-time and full-time education together with trips to places of interest to enable the student to experience a variety of environments and situations. Tuition is also offered by Inlingua School of languages (https://www.inlingua.edu.sg/en/home.aspx?lang=en&menu=L&menuid=home).

All of the teaching establishments in Singapore are undoubtedly of a good standard and offer the language student the appropriate setting and tuition so as to successfully learn their chosen language. In terms which of the many schools to choose, it really depends on personal preference.

If knowledge of one of the official languages is required for work reasons, most schools offer tuition specifically geared to the business environment in Singapore. Students will not only learn the correct terminology to employ during meetings and for correspondence, they will also be taught about business etiquette and customs in Singapore. Knowledge of these will hopefully assist the expat in making his stay in Singapore a successful one.



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