Singapore is a multiracial society with four official languages: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English. Other Chinese dialects are spoken, particularly Hokkein, but the government promotes Mandarin as the official dialect in order to unify the Chinese communities through its Speak Mandarin Campaign. The national language is Malay, but English is the lingua franca. It's used in government administration, is a required course for every schoolchild, and is used in university entrance exams. Virtually all Singaporeans speak English with varying degrees of fluency. At street level, as well as in business, you'll hear "Singlish," a vibrant Singaporean version of English with its own cross-cultural vocabulary and structure. Singlish sentences often end with a "lah" sound. "Can" means yes, "can not" means no, and "can can not" means maybe. Don't be surprised if Singaporean children call you "auntie" or "uncle"—it's a sign of respect.
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