Waygo Singaporean Style: Chinese Translation Outside of China

With Waygo’s recent visit to Singapore for Echelon 2013, we thought we’d extend our (mental) vacation a bit longer. Apart from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, Chinese is also spoken in Singapore and Malaysia. The name “Singapore” comes from the Malay word “Singapura” which means “Lion City.” Although lions have never been native to the country, the name somehow stuck, and is still used to refer to Singapore. Singapore is a dream come true for translation enthusiasts, given the fact there are four official languages: English, Malay, தமிழ் and 汉语. And if you’re not quadrilingual, that’s English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese.


Singapore is a somewhat unusual nation because there is no one, single culture, but rather a harmony of different cultures, languages and religions. This is especially unusual given Singapore’s small size of only 274 square feet spread among 63 islands. Even people among the different sub-groups (ex: those with Chinese ancestry), speak different native languages at home and practice different religions.

Over a third of Singapore’s residents are not Singaporean citizens, but permanent residents and foreign workers, further leading to the country’s diversity. Even among the Singaporean citizens, almost 25% were not born in Singapore. Here’s the breakdown of native languages of Singaporeans:

Chinese: 50%
English: 32.5%
Malay: 12%
Tamil: 3.5%


Japanese is also featured to cater to Japanese visitors.

secure area sign singapore

Protected Place: English, Chinese, Malay & Tamil.















Most people who don’t know much about Singapore, do know about their seemingly bizarre laws. Some of the weirdest laws to foreigners are no chewing gum sales and it’s against the law to not flush the toilet. As a result of having four official languages, public signs must be creatively crafted in order to fit four different translations, or good artwork that relays into several different languages.

danger keep out sign 3 languages

no feeding monkeys singapore sign

singapore walking path

Trees and branches may fall. TAKE CARE.

singapore subway line

English, Chinese and Tamil.


coffee tea menu english chinese

A menu in a kopi tiam.

A kopi tiam is a coffee shop in Southeast Asia. There are an estimated 2,000 kopi tiams in Singapore, making it an extremely common sight. Besides coffee and tea beverages, small snacks such as eggs and toast are served.

Not only do each of the different sub-cultures (Chinese, Indian, Malay) define the food culture, but the fusion between the different cultures create new flavors. Peranakan (A.K.A. Nonya) is a blend of Chinese, Indonesian and Malay. If you’d like to eat Peranakan, order the ayam buah keluak.

Other dishes to try that are popular in Singapore?

Chilli Crab 香辣蟹 (xiānglàxiè)

Chicken Rice 海南雞飯 (hăinán jīfàn)


How does Waygo translate?

photo (9) photo (10)

Curious to learn more about Singapore? I hear the best time to visit Singapore is anytime.