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Singlish Transcription: The Important Role of a Singlish Transcriber

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

View of the Merlion in Singapore against the Marina Bay Sands skyline

Let me introduce you to the Singlish Transcriber.

The Singlish Transcriber is a professional transcriber who listens to and understands Singlish audio content and is able to transcribe that into a written Singlish document. They may also be an audio translator who translates the Singlish audio to a written English document that can be understood and used by non-Singlish speakers. To support their productivity, they may use professional transcription software and equipment.

When do you need a Singlish Transcriber/Translator?

Legal proceedings in Singapore – when recorded conversations are submitted as evidence to the court, audio files need to be transcribed and submitted in written form. Some of these projects come with hours and hours of recorded content and require the support of a team of transcribers/translators rather than the solo effort of one. The transcriber or translator may also be asked to sign an affidavit as part of court proceedings.

Isn’t Singlish Transcription the same as English Transcription?

Definitely not!

Many projects in the market classified as English transcription are actually Singlish transcription. The same goes for “Singdarin” (or Singaporean Mandarin) assignments. This is a niche in the transcription market.

The wrong classification of Singlish Transcription projects may lead to the hiring of English language transcribers with no ear for the Singlish accent and its own brand of grammar norms that only its native speakers can correctly decipher and transcribe. The end result is an inaccurate transcription that has to undergo a totally unnecessary extra round of extensive edits.

What’s the difference between Singlish and English?

Singlish is a spoken language in Singapore derived from English, Malay, various Chinese dialects and Tamil. This is not the same as the local Singapore English variant in its written form. Even though there are some local terms and language norms, Singapore English does not differ greatly from British English, from which it was evolved.

For the purpose of this article, we will not touch on the linguistic differences from an academic standpoint (let's leave that to the academic linguists). Instead, let's talk about the differences in terms of the challenges they present to a transcriber.

1. Accent – If you're not familiar with Singlish, the accent is going to throw you off, even excellent English transcribers. The very un-English grammatical rules (yes, there are indeed rules for the initiated) make it even more confusing.

2. Grammar – As a Singaporean growing up in Singapore, Singlish had always appeared to me to be “English words in a Chinese sentence structure”. It was moulded by the generations of Singaporeans who spoke various Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil, a product of our multi-racial, multi-cultural society.

Audio recordings can be really fascinating to listen to. Speakers come in all sorts of fashion – those who mumble, those who eat their words, those sitting further away from the microphone and can’t be clearly heard, those who speak at machine gun speed firing round after round after round.

Add an unfamiliar accent and grammar into the mix and the result is, needless to say, pretty chaotic.

And, so…

So, next time you have Singlish content to transcribe, call it Singlish transcription and engage a Singlish transcriber instead of an English transcriber. The same goes for Singdarin content. It saves a lot of unnecessary edits and work. Your transcribers will thank you for it. You will thank yourself for it too when you get the transcribed document back!

If you'd like to get a quote for your Singlish audio or video files, send us your project details here.

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