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Category Archives: Hokkien

Is there still a place for Chinese dialects in Singapore?

With Chinese dialects slowly going obsolete among the younger generation, three youths fluent in their respective dialects share the importance of dialect in their lives.

Once ridiculed by her peers for speaking in dialect, Student Quek Ji Kiat loathed speaking Hakka and thought that it was uncool. “Back in primary school, my friends would laugh at me whenever I spoke in dialect, so I gradually started to resent using it,” the 19-year-old recounted. Today, Ji Kiat would consider her own command of Hakka at a native level. With Hakka being the main language spoken at home, the Chinese Studies student was exposed to the dialect at a fairly young age. However, Ji Kiat only started to appreciate dialect in her teens, when she noticed that both her parents and grandparents spoke Hakka on a regular basis, and were more comfortable communicating in dialect. Her rediscovery of dialect brought her closer to her family, especially her grandparents, who predominantly spoke Hakka.

But youths like Ji Kiat fluent in their own dialects are no longer a common sight these days. According to the General Household Survey conducted by the Department of Statistics in 2015, only 12.6% of households primarily speak dialect at home. This was a steady decrease from 15.8% in 2010, and 18.2% in 2005. Of the 12.6% of Singaporeans mainly conversing in dialect at home, only 3.4% were aged between 15 to 29. With the declining trend of young Singaporeans proficient in dialects, it leads to the question of whether dialects will still have a place in Singapore in the future.

20-year-old Lee Xuan Jin’s love for dialects came from the comprehension that rather than Mandarin, Hokkien was his true mother tongue. Just like Ji Kiat, he picked up Hokkien from his family, having lived with his paternal grandmother for a large part of his childhood. “Towards the end of primary school, I realized that the language my ancestors spoke in the past was not Mandarin, but rather Hokkien and Teochew.” For Xuan Jin, learning Hokkien was a way for him to connect with his cultural roots.

Using Peh-oe-ji, an old form of romanization used by the Christians in Taiwan, he started ‘Writing in Hokkien’, a Facebook page where he frequently posts flashcards of common Hokkien words. With this, he aims to ignite interest in the dialect and promote literacy in Hokkien among the younger Singaporeans. To him, knowing dialect is a crucial step to understanding his roots, and learn first-hand about his ancestral culture. “It also makes our dialect group something that is part of our identity, rather than just an indication on our birth certificates,” Xuan Jin strongly believes that youths today should actively embrace their dialect. “It’s 2019, shouldn’t we be welcoming of the idea of having not one, but multiple identities?” He maintains that the social prejudice against dialects is a contributing reason for the lack of usage among youths today, and with the increasing interest in dialects among youths such as himself, he hopes that change will be soon to come.

For Ski, having to pick up Cantonese when she moved to Hong Kong first opened her eyes to the difficulties that one faced while learning dialects, and a volunteering encounter inspired her to start her own initiative to bridge the difficulties between dialect learners and the language. She realized that many of the elderly at the old folk’s home she volunteered at spoke mainly dialects while most of the volunteers did not, which greatly hindered their communication. Today, Ski is one of the founders of LearnDialect.sg which offers dialect lessons to Singaporeans of all ages and hopes to keep these “dying” languages alive among the younger generation of Singaporeans.

Joey Teo’s knowledge of Hokkien was a gift that aided her in voluntary work. As an avid volunteer, the 19-year-old regularly worked with the elderly, most of whom were unable to speak both English and Mandarin. Although exposed to Hokkien since young, Joey never saw it as anything particularly useful until she started volunteering with old folks homes after completing her A-Levels. Knowing Hokkien allowed her to communicate more effectively with the elderly she works with. “They are more likely to open up to me just because I speak a dialect that they are comfortable with.” For this, Joey is incredibly grateful towards her parents, for emphasizing on the importance of dialect at home.

Contributed by Wong Shi Yun


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!


Have an interesting article to contribute? Get in touch with us now.

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Singapore Hokkien Film: Ixora Flower (Behind the Scenes)

Hokkien Film: Ixora Flower

Ixora Flower is a Hokkien film produced by a group of students – 61 Adolescence Films – from Temasek Polytechnic, Digital Film & TV, as part of their Final Year Project. Inspired by the real-life events of the director’s grandaunt, the story centred on two sisters, who were caught in the unfortunate 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire in Singapore.

Last October, the production crew reached out to LearnDialect.sg to help coach their main cast in their Hokkien script. We were intrigued! The younger generations in Singapore hardly speak Hokkien, so we wondered, why would these students risk their grades to produce a film in an unfamiliar language? The crew explained that they wanted to honour our Pioneer generation, who had contributed greatly to Singapore. Thus they set their minds to create a film for our seniors to reminisce about old Singapore. They also wanted to film it in Hokkien – a language commonly spoken by these seniors – even though their crew of diverse ethnicity do not speak Hokkien. We were deeply moved.

Hokkien Film: Script Coaching with Main Cast – Ling En & Jaylynn

The original script was written in English and Mandarin and we helped to translate the lines into everyday Hokkien. On script-reading days, we headed to Temasek Polytechnic to meet with the main cast, Ling En and Jaylynn. Line by line, we went through the pronunciation with them. It wasn’t easy for them to embrace a new language in such a short period of time, much less having to emote and express accordingly. As such, we didn’t expect them to deliver the lines with 100% accuracy. However, Ling En and Jaylynn conscientiously took notes and practised on their own too. Then there were days when we were on set to ensure that the main leads were pronouncing their lines as clearly as possible. Often, Ling En and Jaylynn also had to learn new lines on the spot, when we were informed that there were impromptu changes to the script.

A particularly memorable night was the filming at Pulau Ubin, where the conditions were not the best. The weather wasn’t kind, as filming often had to stop due to the heavy rain. It didn’t help that unidentified bugs were always around us too. However, when the camera started to roll, both Ling En and Jaylynn were always ready with their expressions and lines. They worked hard without a single complaint, putting in their blood (thanks to starving mosquitoes), sweat and tears. We couldn’t have been more impressed with their professionalism.

Hokkien Film Ixora Flower Learn Dialect

Hokkien Film: Trailer & Behind-the-Scenes Clip

This Hokkien film, made with good intentions, surpassed our expectations. Frankly, the production crew could have taken the easy way out. For example, instead of a period drama, they could have a plot based in modern times. They could then save the effort of renting period props, costumes, and perhaps, use more accessible locations for filming. Similarly, instead of filming in Hokkien, they could film it in English instead. That would probably make the production process easier for everyone since the majority of them do not speak Hokkien. However, they didn’t. The crew’s commitment and resilience are what we loved most about this Hokkien film.

Here’s a trailer of the film, together with behind-the-scenes shots of our coaching. Do keep a lookout for the premiere in November!

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Hokkien: COVID-19 and the Heightened Measures

Hi there! As the situation with COVID-19 worsens, many entities including the government, corporations and individuals have come together to battle against this virus. The latest round of measures announced by the Singapore government on 3rd April 2020 is deemed to be the strictest, ever since COVID-19 first appeared in Singapore. As such, we would like to update our dialect-speaking seniors on what has happened since our last video. In this way, they are kept informed of the current situation and can better understand how we play a part together.

Please share this video with anyone who may find it useful. Let’s overcome this battle together!

You can also view and share this video via our Facebook and Instagram.

English Subtitles

Hello! Covid-19, a type of coronavirus, has become a global pandemic.

As of 4th April 2020, there are about 1.1 million confirmed cases globally, with more than 60,000 deaths. In Singapore, there are more than 1000 confirmed cases with 6 deaths. To control the spread, the Singapore government has heightened measures that require everyone’s cooperation. Daily routines will be affected. For instance, you will see more people wearing masks on the streets. In addition, most shops will be closed but essential services and key economic sectors will remain functional. As such, you can still take public transport, go to the doctor and head to the banks. In addition, students and most people will be learning or working from home.

To remain vigilant during this critical period, please note that:

  1. You are strongly advised to stay home and avoid going out unnecessarily. By avoiding physical contact outside your home, the probability of contracting the coronavirus will be reduced.
  2. Always wear a mask when you head out. If you are healthy, please use a reusable mask. From 5th April 2020 to 12th April 2020. the government will be distributing a reusable mask per person. Kindly bring along your identification card for collection at a Community Centre or Residents’ Committee. However, if you are ill, use a surgical mask instead; the government distributed 4 masks per household previously. Do note that the surgical mask can only be used once.
  3. Food establishments will remain open only for takeaway or delivery. This means that you are not allowed to eat/dine-in and must consume your meals at home.
  4. Supermarkets will remain open for daily necessities and grocery needs, but please do not buy excessively. If you are a Singaporean aged 71 years and above this year, you have priority shopping privileges during the first operating hour at every NTUC outlet on Mondays. For outlets that operate 24 hours, the priority shopping hour will be on every Monday, from 7am to 8am. Similarly, you can also head to Giant and Cold Storage during the first hour of every outlet’s operating time, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, instead. For outlets that operate 24 hours, the priority shopping hour will be on every Tuesday and Wednesday, from 8am to 9am.
  5. Finally, please maintain good personal hygiene. In addition, staying healthy will strengthen your immunity and make you less susceptible to the virus. As such, please take good care of yourself. Remember to wash your hands frequently and for good measures’ sake, kindly maintain a safe distance from others of at least 4 metric rulers (approximately 1.2 metres)*.

Thank you.

*We used the metric ruler as a form of measurement, as we find that seniors in Singapore are more familiar with this system. The official guideline from Singapore’s Ministry of Health for safe distancing is 1 metre.


( 中文字幕 )2019冠状病毒疫情及新措施

您好!相信您已知最近有一种具有传染性的病毒。这种病毒英语叫做COVID-19, 也有人称它为Coronavirus。华语叫做2019冠状病毒,简称新冠病毒。

截至2020年4月4日, 由新冠病毒引起的疫情在全世界至今已确诊约一百十多万病例、死亡超过六万例。新加坡也有超过一千起确诊病例以及六人死亡。为了控制疫情的扩散,新加坡政府需要全国人民的合作。大家的生活习惯将有所改变,所以您会看到更多人戴上口罩。许多店铺也会暂时关闭,但是必要服务和行业会继续运作。所以, 您还是可以乘搭公共交通、看医生、去银行等。此外,学生和多数的工作人士将在家里上课及办公。

在这个非常时期,您要更加小心, 请您注意:

  1. 尽量呆在家里。只要不出门,不与他人接触,就能减少病毒传播的机率。
  2. 出门要戴口罩。如果您没生病,就应该戴上能重复使用的口罩。政府将于2020年4月5日至4月12日派发这种口罩。您可以携带身份证前往联络所或居委会领取。如果您生病但还需外出,请您戴上手术口罩。政府早前已经分发四个手术口罩给每户人家。这种口罩不能重复使用。
  1. 咖啡店、小贩中心和餐馆等将继续营业,但只允许外卖,禁止堂食。所以, 您还是能购买食物回家享用。
  2. 超市及菜市会继续营业,不过请您不要抢购囤积。每逢周一,今年71岁或以上的新加坡年长者能在NTUC营业时间的首个小时优先购物。但请注意,若该NTUC全日无休,优先购物时段则是周一早上7点至8点。此外,您也能在周二与周三到Giant 或Cold Storage优先购物。优先购物时段是Giant和Cold Storage营业时间的首个小时。 同样的,如果该Giant或Cold Storage全日无休,优先购物时段则是周二与周三,早上8点至9点。
  3. 最后,请您注意个人卫生。要懂得照顾自己,因为免疫力较强者比较不会受感染。记得勤洗手,并且为了安全起见,与其他人保持最少4尺* (约1.2米)的距离。

谢谢。           

*由于年长者大多以”尺”作为衡量数位,因此我们在视频里便以此为准。新加坡卫生部建议的安全距离为1米。


The video was created with the intention to reach as many Hokkien-speaking seniors in Singapore as possible. As such, we have chosen to use everyday Hokkien that most Singaporeans are used to and thus, may include some words from other languages too. In similar manner, we have also included English and Mandarin subtitles. We hope this helps to bridge the communication gap between our Hokkien-speaking seniors and our healthcare professionals, volunteers or simply anyone who is less fluent in Hokkien.


We’ve recorded this video in Teochew and Cantonese too:

Previously, we’ve also recorded a COVID-19 precautionary video in Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and Hakka:

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In Hokkien: COVID-19 and Precautions to Take

Hi there! As you all may know, there are many Hokkien-speaking seniors in Singapore who do not have a strong command of English or Mandarin. As such, this video in Singapore Hokkien highlights the precautions that they can take to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.

Please share this COVID-19 precautionary video with anyone who may find it useful. Let’s overcome this battle together!

You can also view and share this video via our Facebook and Instagram IGTV.

English Subtitles

Hello! You must have observed that many people are wearing masks recently.

This is because a new coronavirus – originated from Wuhan, China – is spreading around the globe.

The situation is a cause for concern, as effective vaccines and medicines have yet to be developed successfully.

As of 31st January 2020, there are about 10,000 confirmed cases globally with more than 200 deaths. There are also confirmed cases in Singapore.

Typical symptoms include cough, runny nose, fever and shortness of breath.

If you have just returned to Singapore, please monitor your health closely.

If you have cough, runny nose or fever within 2 weeks upon your return, please wear a mask. Seek medical attention promptly and do inform the clinic ahead of your visit.

Here are a few precautions that you can take:

  1. Avoid contact with animals, poultry and birds.
  2. Avoid consumption of raw or under-cooked meat.
  3. Avoid crowded places and people who are unwell.
  4. Observe good personal hygiene.
  5. Wash hands with soap, especially before meals and cooking as well as after using the toilet.
  6. Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  7. See a doctor if you are unwell.

Thank you.


( 中文字幕 )新冠肺炎疫情以及预防措施

您好!相信您最近看到很多人都在戴口罩。

这是因为中国武汉出现不明原因肺炎病例,而这种新型冠状病毒具传染性。

现今无疫苗或特效药对病毒有效,所以目前情况相当严重, 引起各方关注。

截至2020年1月31日, 由新型冠状病毒引起的疫情至今已确诊约一万多病例、死亡超过两百例。新加坡也有确诊病例。

常见症状包括咳嗽、流鼻涕、发烧及气喘。

如果您刚从国外回返新加坡, 请密切留意自己的健康情况。

在回国的两个星期内, 若您有咳嗽、流鼻涕或是发烧的症状,请戴上口罩并及时求医。求医前请先致电诊所。

您可以采取的预防措施包括:

  1. 避免接触动物、家禽(如鸡、鸭)以及鸟类。
  2. 避免食用生肉或未完全煮熟的肉类。
  3. 避开人多的地方。尽量避免与身体不适的人近距离接触。
  4. 注意个人卫生。
  5. 用肥皂洗手,尤其是在:吃饭前;做饭前;上厕所后。
  6. 在咳嗽或打喷嚏时,请用纸巾捂住口鼻。
  7. 如果感到身体不适,应立即就医。

谢谢。


The video was created with the intention to reach as many Hokkien-speaking seniors in Singapore as possible. As such, we have chosen to use everyday Hokkien that most Singaporeans are used to and thus, may include some words from other languages too. In similar manner, we have also included English and Mandarin subtitles. We hope this helps to bridge the communication gap between our Hokkien-speaking seniors and our healthcare professionals, volunteers or simply anyone who is less fluent in Hokkien.


We’ve also recorded this COVID-19 precautionary video in Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and Hakka:

*The Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and Hainanese videos were created before the formal name of COVID-19 was given. Previously, it was commonly known as Wuhan coronavirus.


COVID-19 Heightened Measures Videos (Circuit Breaker Period – April 2020)

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Hokkien: How Do You Say – Chinese New Year Greetings and Wishes

Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say – Chinese New Year Greetings and Wishes

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishHokkien Our Romanization
Body身体Sin teh
Healthy健康Kian kong
Congratulations恭喜Giong hi
To prosper发财Huat zai
LiftGia
TakeTeh

Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say – Chinese New Year Greetings & Wishes

Welcome back to our Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast. I’m Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and hope you are as excited as me about the Chinese New Year! As we welcome the Year of the Rat, I would like to share with you some Chinese New Year greetings in Hokkien that would come in handy for your festive celebrations.

新年快乐, 万事如意. This is a greeting that I covered in our How Do You Say – Happy New Year Podcast last year. For this year, we will talk about some well wishes for health and wealth.

The most common Chinese New Year well-wishes for health would be 身体健康. 身体 refers to our body while 健康 means “healthy”. Combining it together would simply mean a wish for a healthy body. This is an endearing Chinese New Year greeting, especially for seniors in the family.

Having addressed health, let’s talk about wealth. Hokkiens’ favourite Chinese New Year greeting for wealth would be 恭喜发财. Let me break this down for you.

恭喜 means “congratulations” and you can use it in any occasions, including wedding, getting a promotion, etc. In fact, Hokkiens would typically say 恭喜 twice to extend their heartfelt congratulations. For example, when attending a wedding, one would say “哇, 你交寅了, 恭喜恭喜!” This means, “You are getting married, congrats congrats!”

发财 means “to prosper”. As such, during Chinese New Year, 恭喜发财 would be a great congratulatory phrase to wish someone great wealth and prosperity.

Last but not least, if you are still eligible for red packets and would like to be cheeky, you can always say 恭喜发财, 红包夯来. The additional phrase requests for a red packet directly, so I would recommend for you to only say it to people whom you are really close with. It’s a tad direct but hey, your Chinese New Year greetings are still valid. Alas, I am no longer eligible to use that phrase!

Now, here’s a fun fact for you! Did you know 红包夯来 is a very colloquial expression in Singapore? The word – 夯 – refers to lifting something heavy. So to use it for a tiny red packet, well… it isn’t technically correct. The right way to say it would be 恭喜发财, 红包提来.

Alright! We hope this post armed you with some cool Hokkien greetings for Chinese New Year. This is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg, and I would like to wish you 新年快乐, 万事如意, 恭喜发财, 身体健康. Cheers to a healthy and wealthy Chinese New Year ahead. Huat ah!


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!


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.

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Special: Common Chinese Surnames in Singapore – Hokkien, Teochew or Cantonese?

Listen to Podcast | Special: Common Chinese Surnames in Singapore – Hokkien, Teochew or Cantonese?

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


Chinese Character Hokkien Teochew Cantonese
Lee Lee Lee
Lim Lim Lam/Lum
Tan Tan Chan
Wee/Oei/Ooi/Ng Ng Wong
Ong Heng Wong

Podcast Transcript | Special: Common Chinese Surnames in Singapore – Hokkien, Teochew or Cantonese?

Hello! I’m Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and thank you for tuning into our How Do You Say Podcast. Oh wait, did you notice that for the first time, we did not specify if this podcast is focused on Hokkien, Teochew or Cantonese? Well, that’s because, to conclude year 2019, we have a very special finale episode for you.

Now, have you ever wondered why the surnames or last names of Singaporean Chinese are spelt differently in English, even though the Chinese character used is the same? Through the English spelling of the surname, are you then able to make a good guess of someone’s dialect group?

So yes, today’s topic is about the common Chinese surnames in Singapore. Whether you are learning Hokkien, Teochew or Cantonese, we think that this post will be equally helpful. In fact, the aim of this episode is to help you make an educated guess of a person’s dialect group and more importantly, get a conversation going. It is a simple guide and by no means exhaustive as there are always exceptions, so let’s get going!

Why do we have different English spellings for the same Chinese surnames? In short, this is due to our unique ancestry as well as the pronunciation differences by each dialect group. To illustrate, we have identified some common Chinese surnames in Singapore. We will use these as examples to point out their similarities and differences across Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese.

First, we recognize that there are some surnames which are spelt the same in English across all three languages. For example, my surname in Chinese is pronounced as li (李) and spelt in English as L-E-E (Lee). This is a common way to spell, no matter whether you are a Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese or even Hakka, as per Singapore’s first prime minister, the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Notwithstanding the above, Hokkien and Teochew belong to the same language group. So if you are a Cantonese, there is a high possibility that your English surname is spelt differently from your Hokkien or Teochew friends with the same Chinese surname. I can give you two examples here – 林 and 陈. 林 is pronounced in Cantonese as lum while in Hokkien and Teochew, it is pronounced as lim. As such, in English, Cantonese speakers will spell their surname as L-A-M or L-U-M, whereas Hokkiens and Teochews will spell it as L-I-M. Similarly, Cantonese pronounce the Chinese surname – 陈 – as chan (陳). Hokkiens and Teochews pronounced it as tan. Hence, can you guess what will be the English equivalent? Yes, Cantonese will spell it as C-H-A-N, while Hokkiens and Teochews will spell it as T-A-N. You get the drift now?

The next Chinese surname – 黄 – is an interesting one. It can either be different across Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese or similar between just Hokkien and Teochew. Here’s a quick hack for you! If the surname is spelt in English as W-E-E (Wee), O-E-I (Oei) or O-O-I (Ooi), the person will be of Hokkien descent. If it is spelt as N-G (Ng), then he or she may be a Hokkien or Teochew. In contrast, the Cantonese tend to spell it as W-O-N-G (Wong), a rather clear distinction from the rest.

Last but not least, 王 is one of the Chinese surnames that has a unique spelling across all 3 languages. Traditionally, 王 is spelt as O-N-G (Ong) by Hokkiens, H-E-N-G (Heng) by Teochews, and W-O-N-G (Wong) by the Cantonese.

Oh wait, did you notice that Cantonese spell both Chinese surnames 黄 and 王 as W-O-N-G in English? Again, this is because the pronunciation of these Chinese characters in Cantonese are similar – namely, wong.

So there you go! In this short How Do You Say Podcast, we have covered some common Chinese surnames in Singapore. We highlighted how some are spelt the same in English across Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese as well as how some surnames are spelt entirely different.

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek summary for you: Meet a Lee, ask him or her directly. Meet a Wee, Oei or Ooi, Hokkiens fit the name nicely. Meet a Wong, a Cantonese possibly won’t go wrong. But if you meet the rest, it’s time for an educated guess!

Well, did we cover your surname? If not, leave a comment and share with us your dialect group as well as your surname in both Chinese and in English. We love to find out more about different spellings across Chinese dialects in Singapore. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and hope to hear from you soon!


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!

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Special: Why some Singapore Hokkien words sound so similar to Malay words

Listen to Podcast | Special: Why some Singapore Hokkien words sound so similar to Malay words

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishHokkienOur Romanization
Police
(警察)
Ma ta
Marry交寅
(结婚)
Gao yin
Go for a holiday食(吃)风Jiak hong
Cannot袂(不)Bueh

Podcast Transcript | Special: Why some Singapore Hokkien words sound so similar to Malay words

Hello! My name is Eugene and thanks for tuning into our Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast. Speaking of Singapore Hokkien, did you notice that there are many words that sound similar to the Malay language? A few words that comes immediately to mind are “Salah” and “Suka“, which we have learnt in the previous episodes. Are these words purely a coincidence between the 2 languages? Nope, in fact, these are indeed Malay words that the Hokkien language has borrowed from. Personally, I think this is what makes Singapore Hokkien so unique! As such, in today’s podcast, I would like to deviate from our typical sharing of pure Hokkien words and bring you this special edition of Malay loan words.

First up, my favourite line, “Mata 来了!”, which literally means “police come already”. This is commonly heard, especially in the past, when policemen went after the illegal street hawkers in Singapore. Today, we hear it more in the context of vehicle parking. For example, when the parking officer comes to check for illegal parking, especially around popular eateries where parking is often difficult to find. When someone spots the parking officer, I love the cooperative vibe that comes immediately after. Almost everyone starts chanting “Mata 来了! Mata 来了!” to signify that the parking attendants have arrived, and for those who have illegally parked their vehicle, they know what to do.

So why “mata”? Did you know that in the Malay language, “mata” refers to “eyes”, the window to our souls? In the olden days, Singapore Hokkiens viewed police as a pair of eyes, which was constantly watching their moves. Hence, they used “mata” to describe the police and this term is still retained, even until today. Isn’t that fascinating?

Another local slang that you’ll often hear is “我 bueh tahan 了”. “Tahan” is actually a Malay word that means “endure” or “hold out”. So “我 bueh tahan 了” means “I cannot hold it any longer”.

You may also have heard of Hokkiens in Singapore referring to going for a holiday as 食风. Again, this comes from the Malay words – makan angin – which literally means “eating wind”, or metaphorically, chasing the breeze.

How many other Malay-influenced Hokkien words can you think of? Leave us a comment below and we would love to share it in our upcoming podcasts. I’m Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and till our next podcast!


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!


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.

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Hokkien: How Do You Say – Delicious Cooked Food

Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say – Delicious Cooked Food

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

EnglishHokkien Our Romanization
Food食的物件
(食物)
Jiak eh ming gia
Delicious好食
(好吃)
Ho jiak
CookZi / Zu

Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say – Delicious Cooked Food

Hello everyone! My name is Eugene and thanks for tuning into our Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast. In this session, we will be touching on one topic that Singaporeans hold very close to our hearts – food!

While the term “food” is commonly used in English, the same cannot be said in Hokkien within the Singapore context. Instead, we usually refer to food as “things to be eaten” or 食的物件. Specifically, 物件 means “things”. Now, I would suggest for you to keep this in mind, as you’ll soon find that 物件 is a very versatile phrase. In fact, I’ll encourage you to observe how this phrase is commonly used in Hokkien conversations and try to pick up the different ways of application!

So how do we translate “Food is delicious” into Hokkien then? We do so by saying 物件真好食 where 好食 means “delicious” or “yummy”. Of course, if you have a specific food item in your mind, you can simply replace 物件 with the dish name. For example, 福建面真好食 means “Hokkien noodles is delicious”.

Now, I’m a big foodie myself and when I come across a dish that is really yummy, I’ll like to give credits to the person who cooked it, be it the chef or my loved ones. After all, I know that cooking is not easy! Well, for a simple praise, I’ll say 你煮的物件真好食. This means “the food that you cooked is really delicious”. “Cook” can be pronounced as either “Zi” or “Zu” and will be understood by Hokkiens in Singapore.

A quick recap of what we have learnt today:

  • 食的物件, which means “food”;
  • 物件真好食, which means “food is delicious”; and
  • 你煮(zi)的物件真好食 or 你煮(zu)的物件真好食, which means “the food that you cooked is really delicious”.

There you go. Hope these phrases are useful for your next conversation over a good meal! My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you next week!


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!


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.

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Hokkien: How Do You Say – Country Names

Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say – Country Names

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

English Hokkien Our Romanization
Singapore 新加坡 Sin ga po
Malaysia 州府 Jiu hu
Hong Kong 香港 Hiang gang
Taiwan 台湾 Dai wan
China 中国 / 唐山 Diong gok / Dng sua
Japan 日本 Lit boon
Australia 澳洲 Ou jiu
Europe 欧洲 Au jiu
America 美国 Bee gok

Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say – Country Names

Hi there! Welcome back to our Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg. As promised, I will be touching on names of various countries in today’s podcast. Here we go!

To begin, let’s start off with where LearnDialect.sg is based, Singapore. Singapore in Hokkien is pronounced as 新加坡. Next, we have Singapore’s neighbour, Malaysia. Instead of using the Chinese characters of Malaysia’s name and translating it into Hokkien, Singaporean Hokkiens and Teochews typically call Malaysia 州府, as it was a term used under the British colonial rule.

Now, learning Hokkien is useful for your travels in Taiwan – pronounced as 台湾 – as Taiwanese people speak a variant of Hokkien, otherwise better known as Southern Min language locally. Just a short flight away is Hong Kong or 香港 in Hokkien, which is a country well-known for tax-free shopping and dim sum.

Hokkien, similar to Teochew and Cantonese, originated from China. China is known as 中国 but you may also hear senior Hokkien speakers still referring to the country as 唐山, literally translated as the “Tang mountain”. This is due to the prominence of the Tang dynasty in Chinese history where Chinese culture is widespread. China, is also regarded as a prosperous country during the Tang dynasty. This is why Chinatowns in countries outside China are often known as 唐人街 in Mandarin, literally translated as “Tang people street”.

Personally, my favourite country for travel within Asia is Japan or 日本 in Hokkien, as it has a good balance of city life, nature and good food. Looking outside Asia, I would consider travelling to Australia, Europe or America, respectively known as 澳洲, 欧洲 and 美国 in Hokkien. This would allow me to experience and interact with people of a different culture.

Hope the above list covers a country that you like. If not, please leave a comment and share with me the country that you would like to travel to. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you the next week!


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!


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.

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Hokkien: How Do You Say “Favourite Country for Travel”

Listen to Podcast | Hokkien: How Do You Say “Favourite Country for Travel”

Psst… You can find our How Do You Say Podcasts on Spotify too! Head to Spotify – LearnDialect.sg or search for LearnDialect.sg on Spotify.


New Words

English Hokkien Our Romanization
Most 上(最) Siong
Which one 佗一 个
(哪一个)
Doh zit eh
Country 国家 Gok ga
Play 𨑨迌
(玩)
Cit to

Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say “Favourite Country for Travel”

Arrgh… would you agree with me if I say that holidays are always too short? So how do you usually spend your holidays? Personally, the one thing that I look forward to during holidays is to travel and experience different cultures. Speaking of travelling overseas, do you know how to ask someone what is their favourite country for travel? My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and in today’s Hokkien – How Do You Say Podcast, we will be exploring more on this topic.

So first up, here are some new words that you will be learning today –

最 which means “most”;

佗一个 meaning “which one”;

国家 which means “country” and

𨑨迌 means “play”.

To ask someone where is their favourite country for travel, I would tap into words we have learnt on the podcast previously and say 你最舒合去佗一个国家𨑨迌? This translates literally into “You most like go which one country play?”

Now, we’ve learnt 舒合 in one of our earlier How Do You Say “I Love You” podcast. Just a quick recap for you, 舒合 means “like” or “love”. Combining this with the new word – 最 – we literally get “most like” and hence 最舒合 is one way to express “favourite” in Hokkien!

Apart from 舒合 which Singapore Hokkiens borrow from the Malay language, did you also know that 𨑨迌 is a term unique to Min language speakers, including Hokkiens and Teochews? If you are keen to learn more about the unique language features of Hokkien, let me sidetrack a little and shamelessly throw in an ad here… do join us on our Hokkien Workshop for Beginners. Just visit our website at LearnDialect.sg and look under the tab on “Upcoming Classes”.

Ok, back to today’s podcast. “Where is your favourite country for travel?” translated to Hokkien will be 你最舒合去佗一个国家𨑨迌?

We’ve now learnt that the phrase, 𨑨迌 means “play”. So why do we use this phrase to infer travel in this scenario? This is simply a colloquial language shortcut. After all, similar to playing, you’ll have lots of fun travelling to a country that you like, isn’t it?

So I really want to know, 你最舒合去佗一个国家𨑨迌? Please share with me in the comments. In our next podcast, I will teach you the names of some countries in Hokkien. My name is Eugene from LearnDialect.sg and see you the next week!


Love what you are reading? We’ve got lots more to share during our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese express workshops. Join us to pick up words and phrases for everyday use in Singapore. More importantly, you can help to keep these languages alive!


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.

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