Singaporean song supposedly in Chinese

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Reprises several recent themes:  rap, pro-Mandarin language policy in Singapore, Pinyin for subtitles, mixed orthographies, etc.

What language do you think this song is in?  What is the basis for your judgement?

Key line (at 0:56):

                                    (Chinese pronunciation)

I can't read at all if there's no 汉语拼音

                                        hán yǔ pīn yīn*

[*incorrect tone on first syllable; incorrect orthography — should be two two-syllable words]                                         

"Banana" is slang in Singapore (self-explanatory:  yellow on the outside, white on the inside). Another similar expression is "jiak kantang":

For the uninitiated, “jiak kantang” is a combination of Hokkien and Malay meaning “eat potato” – referring to individuals that are Westernised, and who don’t know a lot about their own culture.


If you want to learn more Singlish, here are "10 Office Singaporean Slangs You Must Know", by Fion Lee, Wantedly (12/4/19).  Warning:  many of the definitions and explanations of the terms introduced in this article are written in Singlish, so they may only deepen your perplexity over their meaning.


Selected readings

[Thanks to Leander Seah|


  1. Terpomo said,

    April 7, 2022 @ 11:25 am

    >are Westernised, and who don't know a lot about their own culture.
    If you don't know a lot about it, isn't it not really YOUR culture by definition? It may be the culture of some people who are related to you, but the phrasing seems rather essentialist. By that definition I don't know much about my own culture because I can't speak Irish and have never been to a céilí- but it's not my culture, it's my ancestors', even if I have some interest in reconnecting to it.

  2. David C. said,

    April 7, 2022 @ 7:03 pm

    It is structured in English, with a few words and lines swapped out and replaced with Mandarin, not all of it idiomatic (I suppose that is the point of the video – though I wonder how much is actually intentional).

    I'm mildly surprised that the woman in the first half of the video sang in basically a heavily American-influenced accent, rather than in a typical Singaporean accent as in the second half.

    To add to Terpomo's point above, it really is an oddity that Singaporean students are required to study their "mother tongue" at school, essentially along racial lines (if you have Chinese blood, your "mother tongue" is Mandarin), when in fact most of them do not speak their assigned "mother tongue" at home. The double whammy of the "Speak Mandarin" and "Speak Good English" campaigns stigmatize the way that many Singaporeans actually speak.

    I had a chuckle at "I'm only 'Fluent in Chinese' in my resume". My personal experience traveling in Singapore is that when I ask a question in Mandarin, a good number of people respond back "Sorry I don't speak Mandarin. Oh you actually speak English? (Why didn't you just speak English?)".

  3. Chas Belov said,

    April 7, 2022 @ 10:22 pm

    Actually, "banana" is used here in the US as well.

  4. Terpomo said,

    April 8, 2022 @ 1:49 pm

    Yes, there's a whole class of such insults:
    (See the 'real life' section.)

  5. DDeden said,

    April 10, 2022 @ 1:28 am

    Kentang, not kantang, for potato (or similar starchy root rhyzome), in Malaya, but perhaps kantang is a local S'pore variant.

  6. Guy_H said,

    April 10, 2022 @ 9:02 pm

    They have a very strong American accent when rapping in Mandarin, but ironically I can't really hear an accent when they sing.
    I find this to be very much a Singaporean phenomenon (also common amongst the Western children of Chinese immigrants) – native-like accent, correct tones, understandable grammar, idiomatic usage (I mean just the fact they are rapping about pi pa gao, which is the most Chinese thing ever lol). But due to the dominance of English in Singapore, the overall quality of Mandarin is shallow.

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