Despite the “Speak Good English” initiative introduced by the Singaporean government, the use of Singlish—a slang-heavy spoken language that mixes English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese words—persists throughout the country. Lah is the quintessential Singlish word, usually used as a full stop at the end of a sentence to convey a willingness or ability to do something. One of the most frequently heard phrases from locals, “can lah ” is best translated as “Sure, I can!” —Jessica Battilana
Illustration by Ward Schumaker. This appeared in the March/April 2011 issue.