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Top 4 Singapore Towns Mispronounced by Tourists

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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
Photo by Jisun Han (Unsplash License)

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 it is home to over 265,000 residents.

Photo of Our Tampines Hub by David Gan (Unsplash License)

Popular shopping malls in Tampines include Tampines Mall, Century Square, and Tampines 1. Retail-warehouse giants IKEA, Courts, and Giant are also located in Tampines. In 2017, Our Tampines Hub was officially opened as Singapore's largest integrated community and lifestyle hub.

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

Correct pronunciation: Tam-puh-nees.

Rather than pine trees, the name Tampines actually comes from a tree species native to Singapore known as tempinis.

2. Aljunied

Photo of Aljunied MRT in Singapore by mailer_diablo (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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

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 a waterfront town located at the Northeast of Singapore. It is one of Singapore's oldest settlements, and it is now home to over 185,000 residents. Popular hangout spots nowadays in this area include Waterway Point and Punggol Waterway Park.

Photo of Punggol Waterway Park in Singapore by Erwin Soo (CC BY 2.0)

The N + double Gs in Punggol are quite the troublemakers. Some tourists end up pronouncing Punggol 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 220,000 residents. It is the most populous region in the Northeast of Singapore. Some notable hangout spots are Hougang Mall, Hougang 1, Heartland Town Centre, and Hougang Sport Hall.

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.

Photo of Hougang Mall by Sengkang (Copyright Free Use)

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 Gǎng (后港), literally meaning "river end".

Dismissing the tonal pronunciation, it appears that the difference basically stems from a matter of Hokkien / Teochew versus Mandarin.

Both Au-kahnk and Hou-kahnk are 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 220,000 residents, how do you exactly pronounce your the name of your home?

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