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Top 4 Singapore Towns Mispronounced by Tourists

Unless you are born in or have lived in Singapore for quite some time, chances are you'll second-guess yourself when these names roll off your tongue.
Top 4 Singapore Towns Mispronounced by Tourists

Published by The LingoNomad

Featured article photo: Merlion Park, Singapore by Graham Hobster (CC0 Licensed)

1. Tampines

Tampines is a residential town situated at the East of Singapore. It is only around 10–15 minutes drive away from Changi Airport, and is home to over 257,000 residents.

Photo of Tampines, Singapore by Terence Ong (CC0 Licensed)

Popular shopping malls in Tampines include Tampines Mall, Century Square (currently under renovation), and Tampines 1. Retail-warehouse giants IKEA, Courts, and Giant are also located in Tampines.

Tourists often mispronounce the name Tampines, pronouncing it as Tam-pynes, as in the "pyne" in "pine" trees.

Correct pronunciation: Tam-puh-nees.

Instead of pine trees, the name Tampines actually comes from the less-known ironwood trees, otherwise known as tempinis, which grew abundantly in the past, hence giving the area its name.

2. Aljunied

Photo of Aljunied, Singapore: CC0 Licensed

Aljunied is located at the fringe of the central areas of Singapore. The name of the area comes from Aljunied Road, named after Syed Ali bin Mohamed Aljunied. His father was Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied, one of the earliest Arabs to settle down in Singapore. He was a wealthy merchant who migrated from Palembang, Indonesia and his hometown at Yemen.

Aljunied is another name that tourists have problems with, often pronouncing it as Al-joo-nite. Correct pronunciation: Al-joo-nate.

3. Punggol

Punggol is now very well on its way to become Singapore's waterfront town. It is located at the Northeast of Singapore. Punggol is one of Singapore's oldest settlements, and it is now home to over 160,000 residents. Popular hangout spots nowadays in Punggol include the newly-built Waterway Point, and Punggol Waterway Park.

Photo of Punggol, Singapore by Deoma12 (CC0 Licensed)

The N + double Gs in the name Punggol often give tourists a twisted tongue, pronouncing it as Punk-goal. Correct pronunciation: Poong-gol, or Pong-gol (Ponggol is a valid alternative spelling of Punggol).

4. Hougang

Hougang is home to over 247,000 residents. It is the most populous region in the Northeast of Singapore. Some notable hangout spots are Hougang Mall, Hougang 1, Heartland Mall, and Hougang Sports Hall.

Photo of Hougang, Singapore: CC0 Licensed

This particular name is quite controversial. Some says the correct way to pronounce it is Au-kahnk (silent H) and some says it's Hou-kahnk. Many tourists simply pronounce it as How-gang.

If we take a look at the origin of the name, "Hougang" originates from the Hokkien / Teochew word Aū-káng. The Mandarin Pinyin of this Hokkien / Teochew word is Hòu Găng (后港), literally meaning "river end".

Dismissing the tonal pronunciation, therefore it appears that it's basically a matter of Hokkien / Teochew versus Mandarin. Both Au-kahnk and Hou-kahnk are actually two correct ways to pronounce Hougang.

Your Turn

  • If you are a tourist to Singapore, what are some places in Singapore with names you have trouble pronouncing, leaving your cabby drivers scratching their heads?
  • If you are one of Hougang's 247,000 residents, how do you exactly pronounce your the name of your home sweet home?

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