One of the multiple spin-offs of the daily word game, Wordle, is the Singlish version, Word-leh. Created by Singaporean Sha-Mayn Teh who is based in New York, Word-leh was first shared with friends on 1 Feb 2022, then released to the public on 8 Feb. After just one day, nearly 10,000 people were playing it! She says that its popularity has surprised her.
It really isn’t surprising, really. Singlish, the variety of English widely spoken in Singapore, is integral to the Singaporean identity. Especially when overseas, it’s one of the first ways Singaporeans identify one another, and speaking Singlish immediately builds a bond between Singaporeans. As Sha-Mayn Teh says, “For me, Singlish is about community and culture, and it's a way of keeping a connection to Singapore wherever I go.”
Singlish is a unique hybrid of English with words and grammar borrowed from the languages of the ethnic groups who have made Singapore their home. Word-leh’s appeal combines the attractive simplicity of Wordle with the unique vocabulary of Singlish, incorporating words and grammar from languages such as Malay, Hokkien and English. Which other word game would have answers like dowan, bojio, sibeh and boleh?
Some comments from a small sample of Singaporeans who play Word-leh: “I have a sense of satisfaction that I am Singaporean”, “I have special access to/knowledge of a list of words that other English speakers don't know”, “it’s close to home and relatable”. Although all these people would declare that standard English is their first and strongest language, Singlish touches their hearts in a special way.
With this understanding of the unique role the “heart language” plays in reaching every people group, Wycliffe Bible Translators and partner organisations continue to press on to translate God’s Word for every nation, tribe, people and language.