Singaporean Portuguese – A Brief Post on Kristang

While surfing the web looking through various creoles spoken in the world, one of them caught my eye. A creole spoken in Singapore and Malaysia, but not Singlish nor Manglish. Instead, it was a Portuguese creole, spoken by only a handful of people in the Malayan Peninsula. This is Kristang, known as Portugis to the members of the Kristang community.

Papia Kristang (Speak Kristang) is a language of a couple thousand speakers, mostly in Malacca and Singapore, with 750 speakers in the former and 100 in the latter. After the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, Kristang began to form, and through time, influenced Macanese as residents migrated to Macau. Even though Portugal lost Malacca in 1641, Kristang lives on today, albeit preserved by a few thousand speakers.

A lot of its grammar was based on the Malay language, and many of its words drew influences from Northern Portuguese dialects, Spanish and Italian and Sicilian. Despite being an oral language for some 450 years, a written form was not proposed for this creole until the 1980s, when it was decided the Malay orthography should be used.

Some common phrases include:

How Are You?, Teng Bong? (Port. Estás bom?, lit. Têm bom?)

What’s your name?, Ki bos sa numi? (Port. Qual é o seu nome?, lit. Quê vosso nome?)

Good Morning, Bong Pamiang (Port. Boa Manhã)

Good Afternoon: Bong Midia (Port. Bom Meio-dia)

Good Evening: Bong Atadi (Port. Boa Tarde)

Good Night: Bong Anuti (Port. Boa Noite)

Thank You: Mutu Merseh (Port. Muitas mercês)

Having an endangered status in both Malaysia and Singapore, there are efforts to revitalise the language, in which I came across Kodrah Kristang, a Singapore-based initiative. Their site can be found in:

Kristang may be a very little known language spoken in Singapore, but this does not mean it should not be preserved. The significant cultural heritage which surrounds this creole surely proves the importance of revitalising this language. Do support the Kodrah Kristang initiative to keep this language alive!

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