When I first arrived in Singapore in 2006, I would find it strange to see people jump from Chinese to English and back in just one sentence, sometimes also mixing Malay or other dialects in there. Meanwhile, I’ve picked up the habit myself. Is there no avoiding this?
Even for those brought up in a monolingual environment, such as the Chinese that have since settled here, it is common to hear sentences like:
“其实，我要去马来西亚，但还没 apply visa. 所以可能 cannot go this time.”
What happens is, we just say what first comes to mind. Knowing that the person we speak to understands both languages as well. You can say that this is just typical for the place we call Singapore, and it makes us all connect to each other. I really don’t think there is a problem with it as long as everyone is in on the conversation.
I’ve also seen this mixing happening in the context of EU officials. Coming from different EU member states, most speak 3-4 languages to some extent and will be able to understand quite a bit more than they can speak. Depending on the gr0up composition, the conversation will hang more towards English / French / Spanish / Italian / German.
So the language used is really a product of who is trying to communicate. And languages fuse when often used in combination. This is how Singlish has involved, and I can absolutely not see a problem with Singlish in a Singaporean context.
The thing is, mixing languages does become a problem when communicating with people that speak only one of the languages involved. Personally, I find it more and more challenging to stick to pure Dutch when talking with family. And even when I try to speak as well as I can, I cringe when I hear the anglicisms (literally translated idioms from English) creep in. What’s worse, my brother sometimes points out foreign influences in my Dutch that I didn’t even notice as I spoke them. I simply don’t speak my mother tongue often enough.
Do you try to avoid mixing languages at all cost? Mix languages freely? Or occasionally slip up?