Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say “I Love You”

New Words   
I love you – 我爱你 – wa ai li 
Want – 爱(要) – ai 
I like you – 我舒合你 – wa su kah li 
I like you – 我佮意你 – wa kah yi li


Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say “I Love You”

Hello everybody and Happy Valentine’s Day to you! This is Eugene, from LearnDialect.sg. Well, love is in the air this week, isn’t it? How did you feel when you first heard someone, probably your family or your partner, telling you “I love you”? These three words, though simple sounding, is an important expression in a relationship that indicates emotional attachment. So how do Hokkiens say these three important words? Let’s find out on today’s How Do You Say podcast. 

You’ll often hear Mandarin speakers saying “I love you” as “我爱你”. But did you know that Hokkien speakers in Singapore rarely use this exact phrase? In daily Hokkien conversations, the word “爱” represents “want” more often than “love”. For example, “你爱(要)食什么?” means “what do you want to eat?”. Or “你爱(要)怎样讲?” refers to “how do you want to say or react?”. As such, if you express “I love you” in Hokkien as “我爱你”, it sounds more like “I want you” instead. 

So then, how do Singapore Hokkiens say “I love you”? Now, here’s the unique point about Singapore Hokkien! We borrow the word “suka” from the Malay language. “Suka” means “like” in Malay. So in Hokkien, we say it in the exact sound too – 舒合.  

In terms of the written characters, we pick words with similar meanings. “舒” means “comfortable” while “合” means “together”. So there you go… when you are in the company of your loved ones, do you feel comfortable? “我舒合你” has become the go-to expression for Hokkiens to express “I love you” in Singapore. Personally, I like how subtle this expression is as well as how it reflects the relatively more reserved Chinese culture. In the olden days, love was usually unspoken within Chinese families, be it between husbands and wives, or parents and children! You know… Not outrightly “I love you”, but well… I’m really comfortable being together with you.   

If your loved ones are Taiwanese, I would not recommend you to use “我舒合你”. Otherwise, it may be quite hurtful if you declare your love to someone and the person hardly understand or acknowledge you. Remember what I said earlier? In Singapore, we use “舒合” as we borrowed it from the Malay language. Well, but not in Taiwan. In fact, a Taiwanese expresses “I love you” as “我佮意你” instead. As such, the moral of the story is to express love in a language that your loved ones understand and appreciate. 

When was the last time you said “I love you” or “我舒合你”? Feel free to share with us your love story by leaving us a comment! Thank you for listening in to our Hokkien – How Do You Say on LearnDialect.sg. I am Eugene and see you on the next podcast!


Our Philosophy for Learning Hokkien in Singapore

The pronunciation of Hokkien words varies from one region to another. For example, Penang Hokkien sounds different from Taiwanese Hokkien. At LearnDialect.sg, we want to make learning Hokkien fun, easy and practical for daily conversations in Singapore. As such, we think it is important to listen to how Singaporeans speak Hokkien. To do that, we have an ongoing process of collecting audio recordings from at least 100 Hokkien-speaking seniors in Singapore and thereafter based our audio pronunciation on the most commonly-heard version. 

In similar nature, rather than trying to figure out which Hokkien romanization system to use (e.g. Pe̍h-ōe-jī or Taiwan Romanization System), we encourage you to form your own phonics, so that you make an association with these Hokkien words in the quickest way possible. To illustrate, the formal romanization of the English word, “eat”, is “chia̍h” in Hokkien. However, in our “Have You Eaten” podcast transcript, you’ll find that we use “jiak”, which we think relates to us better. That said, you may use other romanization (e.g “chiah”, “jia”, etc), as long as it helps you to make sense of what you hear.