Singapore is a highly modern, cosmopolitan city-state that offers a thriving cultural scene, with a diverse population of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Eurasian descent. You will find state-of-the-art architectural wonders erected alongside enchanting oriental temples. A short bus ride can take you to ancient rainforests teeming with Drongos and monkeys or to muddy wetlands brought to life by giant lizards and lobsters. The plethora of languages spoken in Singapore is a reflection of its rich multiculturalism, making the country a worthwhile destination for language study abroad.
You will find all language programs offered in Singapore in the diamond-shaped main island, the only one of the country’s 63 islands that allows human settlement. The main island, widely known as Pulau Ujong or Singapore Island, forms the greater part of the country in terms of land area and population. With over 5 million people residing in an area of 710 square kilometres, it is the world’s 31st most densely populated island. But unlike other densely populated countries, Singapore has an extremely high standard of living.
With over 50 percent of its land area covered by greenery, and with four nature reserves and 50 major parks, it has earned the moniker “the Garden City”. The city centre is situated in the south, and is made up of the new Marina Bay area, the Riverside, the Orchard Road shopping area, and the Shenton way financial district, or more popularly known as the Central Business District (CBD).
Sprawling, self-contained residential towns have risen around the modern city centre, but the city centre remains the prime location for language programs in Singapore.
Language Schools in Singapore
Singapore is a linguistically diverse country, with four official languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil, and Malay. Adding to this linguistic diversity is the foreign population that makes up 38 percent of the country’s total population. The plethora of language programs in Singapore is a reflection of this rich multiculturalism.
English. You will find English language schools in Singapore that emphasize direct communication and language growth through speaking. Teachers encourage students to speak English at least 80 percent of the time, through interactive activities like role playing. This approach is ideal for individuals who want to learn the language and its practical application quickly. There are English language programs in Singapore that are available for students who want to learn the language for both social and academic purposes, busy professionals who don’t have much time to devote to coursework, and individuals who want to learn English leisurely or intensely. There are even English language courses in Singapore for individuals who are preparing for the CPE, CAE, FCE, IELTS, or TOEFL. It is possible to take part-time or full time language lessons in Singapore, or holiday and seasonal courses.
Mandarin Chinese. Language students can learn to speak Mandarin Chinese and write simplified Chinese characters through courses taught by native-speaking and experienced teachers. Chinese language schools in Singapore cater to a myriad of learners, including both individuals and groups, from expats and travelers to students and professionals. Language students can take courses that will teach them essential Mandarin Chinese, how to converse confidently and effectively in everyday conversations, how to read better through intensive reading practices, or business Mandarin tailored to a specific industry.
Other Asian Languages. It is possible to enroll in a range of Asian language courses in Singapore, for all levels of learners. Students can learn Vietnamese, Thai, Malay, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian. These courses are often offered in small groups, following a comprehensive syllabus and exhaustive assessments, all while taking advantage of the presence of a global blend of nationalities outside the classroom.
European Languages. Language students can choose from a myriad of European language courses offered by language schools in Singapore, particularly Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Russian. Language learners can take individual tuition programs that are tailored to their personal needs and learning objectives, which are ideal for students with limited time or professionals who want to learn at their own pace.
Costs & Affordability
Singapore is known for its high standard of living, and as a very expensive place to live. Nevertheless, there are ways that students can live in Singapore for less, at least slightly.
If you do not have access to a kitchen or are too busy to prepare your own food, you can choose from hawker centres (S$3.50 to 7.00 per meal), which are food stalls grouped together serving basic food and without air conditioning, food courts in malls (S$5 to 10 per meal), more hygienic options than hawker centres and air conditioned, and proper restaurants (S$15 to 100 per meal).
To make transportation more affordable, it is best that you purchase an EZLink card, which offers stored value and can be used for all trains and buses. This will let you travel around the city comfortably for only S$100 per month. Exploring language programs in Singapore that include essentials like accommodations, food, and transportation in up front program costs will also help you save on daily living costs.
Accommodation & Visas
Citizens coming from around 80 percent of the world do not need a visa to travel to Singapore for 30 to 90 days. However, those planning to travel to Singapore must secure a passport valid for six months from the time of departure, sufficient funds for the duration of their stay, a return or onward ticket, and proof of intent to return to their home country.
Most language program providers in Singapore will arrange accommodations for participants, which may be in a homestay with a Singaporean family or in recommended hostels and hotels. You can opt for accommodations that are prearranged and included in the program fee, or attempt to go it on your own (which will be much more expensive most likely).
Benefits & Challenges
Price Tag. Singapore has high standards of healthcare, infrastructure, political stability, cosmopolitan lifestyle, and low crime rates, making it one of the best places to live in the world. This high standard of living comes at a premium though, with the country’s cost of living rising continuously.
Nightlife. While making new friends in the country can be a breeze, with its thriving expat community and celebrated tradition of multiculturalism, bars and entertainment can be pricey. For one, the government levies heavy “sin tax” on alcohol beverages, but you can still find happy hour deals.
Safety. While Singapore is known for its low crime rate, pedestrians and cyclists may have to take extra caution when traveling from place to place. Pedestrians do not have the right of way and cyclists do not have dedicated bike lanes in Singapore. On the other hand, Singapore owes its low crime rate in part to its zero tolerance policy, which can offer disadvantages to people who may have a problem keeping up with rules. Singapore’s rule-bound culture has earned it the double entendre “fine city”. Offences that may be considered harmless in most countries, can translate to a hefty fine or penalty in Singapore.