Celebrity Interview with Wallace Ang, 洪圣安  

We must admit, our disdain for Ma Deliang (马德良) grows with each episode of the dialect drama, Ho Seh Bo. His career-mindedness and self-centeredness landed his father into a depression. But can you blame us? Wallace Ang delivered such a convincing portrayal of an unfilial son, that you wouldn’t have guessed this was his first Hokkien performance. Wallace enthusiastically shares his thoughts and personal experiences, upon knowing our hope to encourage younger generations to learn dialects.  

LearnDialect.sg: There’s no doubt that you are bilingual in both English and Mandarin, given your performances in Channel 5, Channel 8 as well as your radio presenter role in Love 97.2FM. We were pleasantly surprised to hear you being so fluent in Hokkien as well in Ho Seh Bo! Can you tell us more about your dialect background? Do you speak Hokkien frequently at home? When did you start learning Hokkien?

Wallace Ang: I started speaking Hokkien and Teochew as a child to communicate with my grandparents. My paternal grandparents spoke mostly Hokkien whereas my maternal grandparents were Teochew speakers. However, I must admit that I am far from being fluent. I often find the need to pepper my sentences with Mandarin and English.

Can you share one or two interesting/funny anecdotes when you were learning Hokkien?   

Because of the fact that I grew up listening to both dialects, I sometimes find myself incapable of telling them apart. There have been many instances where I thought I was saying something in Hokkien only to be corrected that it was, in fact, Teochew.

What were your initial thoughts when you knew you had to act mainly in Hokkien? What made you want to take up this role as Ma Deliang?

I was actually quite thrilled! I’ve done many English & Mandarin projects, but I’ve never done anything in Hokkien. I am thankful that the EP, Geping Da Ge [Zheng Geping] and the production team took a leap of faith and entrusted me with the role of Ma Deliang. I’m always up for a good challenge. I just hope that I wasn’t too huge a challenge for the directors and the crew though!

We can imagine that it is difficult to translate a Mandarin script into Hokkien and thereafter having to emote and act in Hokkien. How did you prepare for this role?  

It was quite a nightmare actually (laughs). I translated the easier lines myself, got my father and brother-in-law to help me with the more difficult ones, then WhatsApp-ed my on-screen father, Richard Low (Qian Yi Da Ge) to assist me with the most difficult lines! I also spent A LOT of time practising each line to make sure that my pronunciation and enunciation weren’t too far off. And because I memorised the lines by heart, the one thing I was most afraid of was to be corrected during filming and had to learn new words or lines on the spot! 

You’ve released 2 albums. What are your thoughts of producing some Hokkien songs? We would be excited to hear! 

I’d love to write and release a Hokkien song in the near future! But I’d probably need a lot of help with the Hokkien lyrics… Any volunteers? (laughs)

The younger generations don’t speak as much dialect today. Can you leave some words of encouragement for them to pick them their dialect?

It is pretty sad that dialect has been devalued and marginalised. Every language is unique and beautiful, so is our dialect. Our dialect is not merely a tool to communicate with our grandparents, it is also an important link to our roots and culture. And to those who dismiss dialects as being “uncool”, can you actually think of an equally cool, fun and on point alternative to “Ho Seh Liao!”, “Bo Jio!” , “Jialat!” , “Chi Sin!” or “Boh Din Wah Juk”? (laughs)

Image Credits: Wallace Ang