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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.

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.

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 the less-known ironwood trees, otherwise known as tempinis, which grew abundantly in the area in the past, hence giving Tampines its name.

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. 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 185,000 residents. Popular hangout spots nowadays in this area include the newly-built 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 the name Punggol are sometimes troublemakers to the tongues of tourists, and they end up 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 226,000 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 Sports 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.

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, therefore 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 226,000 residents, how do you exactly pronounce your the name of your home sweet home?

Hi, I'm Ryan.

Over the past 10 years, I've lived & worked in 5 cities across 3 countries.

I like helping others to move abroad, and helping them to decide whether they should.


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