Hokkien in Singapore

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[This is the second in a series of four planned posts on Hokkien and related Southern Min / Minnan language issues.  The first was this:  "Eurasian eureka" (9/12/16).]

Ryan of Singapore writes:

Just a few days ago, Singapore's Ministry of communications and information released a set of TV programs, aimed at seniors. It is halfway between a drama and a "public information" broadcast. What may interest you most is that it is in Hokkien, that long overlooked dialect / topolect.

Here is some information about the scope and aims of the program itself:  "New Hokkien drama aimed at seniors to be launched on Sep 9" (Channel NewsAsia, 9/1/16).

The ministry has already uploaded the first episode on YouTube. 《吃饱没?》(Eat Already?) Episode 1

Apart from its content, you may find the language of the episode quite interesting.

I have watched the first part of the episode, and found it rather curious. The register of the characters is fairly different from what I am used to hearing. It sounds unusually formal and contrived.  I have a suspicion that the script was written in Mandarin, and the words pronounced in Hokkien. Either that, or the actors chose to use the literary (instead of the vernacular) readings of the words. In any case I would gladly hear the observations of others on this drama.

Grace Wu, a native speaker and teacher of Taiwanese:

I went over the song and episode 1 of 吃饱没? videos. I completely understand everything. The only difference is that there is a Singapore accent present.

The subtitles of episode 1 match Mandarin quite well. The actors speak vernacular Hokkien but the subtitles are transcribed into Mandarin script. However, this is also very common in Taiwanese dramas that my mother watches everyday (Spring Flower– up to 130 episodes so far).

In the song of 吃饱没, the character subtitles used are more vernacular. Here are some examples:

chhit-tho 七桃 ("play")
mih-kia"7 物件 ("thing")
mai3 chiah siu"7 ti" siu" iu5 卖吃相甜相油 ("don't eat something that is too sweet or too oily")

Geok Hoon (Janet) Williams (a Chinese teacher from Singapore and Malaysia):

1) Great to see my familiar actor / actresses speaking Hokkien. They are very enjoyable to watch.The older generation speaks so naturally, and you can hear their Hokkien is smooth. The Hokkien by the younger generation (children) sounds a bit less natural – lack of fluency, but not bad. Most young people (my nieces and nephews) all speak like that – rather 'chunky', fragmented.

For example, to sack / fire / dismiss is pok tao lo 卜头路 — (spoken by the mother), so natural, more emotional than when you say kāichú 开除 (as in Mandarin).

2) Two parts are difficult to bear and are laughable. The first 10 minutes about healthy eating, and the government's medical policy for the elderly (MediShield Life; 19:28). The propaganda is so obvious.

3) Humour and tongue in cheek in some parts, mixing English with Hokkien (rhyming) (eg, Medisave to save your life) – actually are quite well done.

4) Language points:

a. English is used:
sack (spoken by the boss)

b. Lots of Malay is used throughout:
suka (喜欢 "like")
diam diam ("quiet quiet")
ruit (from Malay duit, "money")
baru ("new; just now")
walao – this must be the most common expression in Spore – walao, walao wei…It's difficult to translate, a bit like "Gosh, OMG, good grief".

cuti – holiday. The mother tried to get a day off (cuti).

c. From English:
Nurse is called Mi-Si (I bet it comes from Miss.)

 I pinpointed the Malay words in the Hokkien in Spore / Malaysia to you, to show you that our Hokkien is rather different from Taiwanese. When I was in Taiwan my friends complained that my Hokkien was not 'pure', and was 'crude', and lacking intonation. In this film you can hear our tones are comparatively flatter than Taiwanese. Taiwanese is like singing, high pitched. I wished I could express myself better to my friends then.

Jean Debernardi, an American researcher who has done extensive fieldwork in Singapore and Malaysia:

The song at the beginning struck me as being Taiwanese Hokkien.  In SIngapore and Penang "I" is "wa" not "gua."  And I think 'simmih' ("what") is 'hammit' in Penang, not sure about Singapore. The program itself sounded more like what I'm used to hearing in Singapore and Penang, and I easily understood it.

Chia-hui Lu, native speaker of Taiwanese:

I can understand 99% of what they say (I did not watch the screen, just listened). There are only some accent differences from Taiwanese. I intuitively feel that it's similar to Quanzhou accented Taiwanese (popular in northern Taiwan).

Just before posting, I received another message from Janet which included 19 screen shots from part 2 of the Hokkien short film we've been discussing.  The subtitles are in Mandarin and English.  As Janet says, "Once again, the clip contains many common Malay words. I found this rather endearing, but Taiwanese may find it rather confusing, or 'incorrect'."  I won't record each instance of non-Sinitic vocabulary, and I certainly won't point out all of the differences between the spoken Hokkien and the written Mandarin, but just give some illustrative examples:

03:07    "Did you take the wrong medicine?"  Malay "salah" is used for "wrong".  Also at 14:33, 15:54, and 17:40.

4:00    An Indian man says "tapi".  "Tapi / Tetapi" means "but" in Malay.

6:16    A man tries to say "take care of yourself" in Cantonese.

7:18-8:00    The female nurse speaks in Teochew 潮州, not Hokkien. She speaks Teochew throughout with this man.

9.44 – 9.48    The doctor (Doctor Tay) and the man pronounce the word "fly" 飛 differently. She says "b/pe", the man says "b/puey".

10.28     The Teochew nurse says "rui" (from "duit" from Malay) for "money".

11.18     Another "baru / baharu" ("just now") from Malay.

13:53    "Patut" ("correct, fair") from Malay, also again at 14:00 and 14:04.

14:04    "Mana" ("where") from Malay.  Also at 18:09.

15:24    "Guli gang".  The meaning is "wages".  I suspect that the "guli" part comes from English "coolie":

name given by Europeans to hired laborers in India and China, c. 1600, from Hindi quli "hired servant," probably from kuli, name of an aboriginal tribe or caste in Gujarat. The name was picked up by the Portuguese, who used it in southern India (where by coincidence kuli in Tamil meant "hire") and in China.

From Online Etymological Dictionary.

But I don't know where the "gang" comes from.  Perhaps Taiwanese or other Minnan speakers can help us out on this.  The expression "guli gang" is used many times in this clip.

17:29    "Gaduh" ("argue") from Malay.

18:43    The word "ngiao" 猫 ("cat") is used for "stingy".  It would be interesting to find out if Taiwan Hokkien has the same usage.

19:24    An Indian lady says "you can tell me" in Hokkien.

19:37    Here "gang rui" is used for "wages", but compare "guli gang" discussed above (15:24).

I'd like to close with a personal anecdote that relates to a Hokkien expression used in this film, namely, chhit-tho 七桃 ("play").  The writing is curious, since the characters literally mean "seven peaches".  But I could tell from the context that what they were saying is the Hokkien word that is usually written [辶+日]迌.

About ten-fifteen years ago, I went to a famous bookstore for scholars in Taipei, Lexis.  I spotted a book with [辶+日]迌 on the cover and was immediately intrigued by it because I had never come across those characters before in my life.  I started leafing through the book and could tell that it was a work of fiction by an apparently Hokkien author from Southeast Asia.  Because of those two strange characters on the cover alone, I decided that I had to have this book.  So I took it up to the checkout area, and the clerks groaned.  I asked them why they groaned when I wanted to buy one of their books.  They said that it was because their computer system didn't have either of those characters in the software.  In the end they had to write out the transaction for this book by hand, because the computer just couldn't handle it.

When I returned to America, I did some research on these two recherché characters, [辶+日]迌, and I found that they were rare characters dug up from some obscure Song Dynasty lexicon to serve as the supposed běnzì 本字 ("original characters") to match the morphemes of the Taiwanese word chhit-tho ("play").  Well, there's nothing "original" about them at all.  [辶+日]迌 were simply arbitrarily chosen to transcribe the sounds of this common Taiwanese word.

This experience had a profound effect upon me, because chhit-tho ("play") was one of the first Taiwanese words that I learned when I was teaching in Taichung during 1970-72, and here we had to go through all these graphic gymnastics to write this high frequency word in characters!

On the concept of "original character", search for běnzì 本字 in this paper:

Victor H. Mair, "How to Forget Your Mother Tongue and Remember Your National Language".

For a monumentally important article on the inadequacy of the Chinese script for writing Taiwanese, see:

Cheng, Robert L. (Zheng Liangwei) 1978. "Taiwanese Morphemes in Search of Chinese Characters" Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 6.2 (June): 306-314.

Anyway, it looks like there's a Hokkien revival of sorts in Singapore, but the new Hokkien is not quite the same as the old Hokkien.

[Thanks to Yilise]


  1. Neil Kubler said,

    September 16, 2016 @ 10:42 am

    Very interesting. Suspect this relaxation of policy on use of Hokkien by broadcasters in Singapore is related to the passing last year of long-time Prime Minister (later Minister Mentor) Lee Kuan Yew, a great man in many respects. However, he had no tolerance for "Chinese dialects"; I remember once when he was promoting Mandarin, someone asked him "But what if our grandmothers speak to us in Hokkien?" and he said something like "If they can't say it in Mandarin, ignore them." So times are changing. But usually when this sort of "revival" takes place, it's already too late…

  2. Victor Mair said,

    September 16, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

    From a Singaporean Peranakan friend:

    "I believe that “gang” in “guli gang” means “work/labor” (as in “chor gang”—do work) or “kang tow” labor head".

    I was thinking along the same lines.

  3. Michael Cannings said,

    September 16, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

    One of your correspondents identifies "diam diam" as a Malay word, but tiām-tiām is used in Amoy Hokkien and Taiwanese too. It's in Douglas (Amoy–English Dictionary, 1873) and so not a recent transmission from Singaporean/Malaysian Hokkien. I'm curious to see if someone who knows something about Malay can chip in.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    September 16, 2016 @ 3:17 pm

    From Toni Tan:

    This makes me recall a meeting I had at AAS with a professor from Taiwan. During our meeting, an Indonesian Chinese came up to reserve a few books and we spoke in Malay (well, he in Bahasa and me in my Peranakan Malay). The Taiwanese professor was very intrigued because she said she distinctly heard a few Hokkien words when I spoke to him and then for the rest she “bù zhīdào nǐ shuō shénme" ("I don't know what you're saying").

    The funny thing is that I never realized those were Hokkien words until someone fluent in Bahasa told me that I was using Hokkien pronouns and the rest was Malay.

    It’s great that they have these Hokkien shows. My grandmother would have loved watching these. She spoke English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese fluently, and she had to drop out of school after the third grade because that was as far as most girls went in terms of education in her time.

  5. David Marjanović said,

    September 16, 2016 @ 3:53 pm

    walao – this must be the most common expression in Spore – walao, walao wei…It's difficult to translate, a bit like "Gosh, OMG, good grief".

    Any connection to wallah? Malay is mostly spoken by Muslims after all.

  6. mo said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 1:31 am

    When put together, [辶+日] looks like this: http://zisea.com/zscontent.asp?uni=28468

  7. Kirinputra said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 10:28 am

    Really interesting series. Got to love the Bird King character! Some thoughts and observations after watching the first two episodes:

    1 — This show’s got moxie. Not surprising to find it’s Royston Tan at the helm.

    2 — Most of the younger Chinese characters are just “speaking Mandarin in Hokkien”. We know the script was written in Mandarin, as with all Hokkien programs anywhere, because slim to no chance the writers can write in Hokkien, and slimmer chance the actors could read it if they did. The actors have to literally translate from the script to the acted scene, but most people don’t realize this is happening, because of the subconscious belief that “Chinese” is one language (and You can’t “translate” from Language A to Language A). The older actors translate beautifully, but the younger Chinese actors are mostly just converting Mandarin to Hokkien word by word

    3 — Hokkien-speaking society tends to only lament the poor pronunciation and lack of “fluency” of young speakers. If a younger speaker can “speak Mandarin in Hokkien” fluidly with good Hokkien pronunciation, that passes for decent Hokkien. The occasional older male — always an older male — who reminds people to watch their grammar and vocabulary will be ignored and written off as a grumpy old dude. :D The writing-off effect is stronger outside of Taiwan and China because there Mandarin itself is also seen as a language of in-group solidarity. The idea that “speaking Mandarin in Hokkien” is not the same as “speaking Hokkien” is nonsense to a lot of younger Singaporeans. This also goes back to the ingrained belief inherited from the elders that “Chinese” is just one language.

    4 — In the first two episodes, they slipped in not one but two Indians that speak fluent Hokkien. The one in Ep. 2 was a young lady too. The fact that the Indians spoke “real” Hokkien while most of the younger Chinese characters “spoke Mandarin in Hokkien” reveals the nature of the beast. It’s not that the younger Chinese actors lack something (i.e. exposure to real Hokkien). It’s more that they’re packing something extra that blocks their ability to speak (or even learn) Hokkien.

    5 — The Teochew-Hokkien bilingual dialog between the Bird King and the clerk at the clinic was boocoo interesting. I wonder to what extent Teochew speakers employ this strategy in Singapore.

    6 — Hokkien LUI — which is also used in most of Chiangchiu in China — is most likely from Malay DUIT, but Hokkien TIĀM is probably not from Malay DIAM. (If it was, the initial would probably be L-.) It’s an interesting correspondence, though. There’s many others like it, such as Hokkien GIÀN vs. Malay INGIN and PENGEN. Singapore Hokkien WÁLÁU (not sure on the tones) is probably just Hokkien 我 + 老, as in “my parent”…

    7 — Hokkien songs are almost always sung in Amoy dialect or a similar “Tailam” type of dialect, no matter what dialects the singer and songwriter speak. This is kind of like how Vietnamese pop is always sung with a Hanoi accent, or R&B in English is always sung in Southern dialect.

  8. KIRINPUTRA said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 10:32 am

    Mr. Mair, what was the book that You bought that had 迌 in the title?

  9. CH said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    @Michael/Kirin, 恬 can be found in Chinese classics written centuries ago so it's unlikely to be borrowed from Malay. Diam in original malay meaning probably meant "to be still" instead of "to be quiet", but I'm speculating here.

    @Kirin/David, walau is probably a bastardization of walan, to make it less harsh while expressing the same thing. Probably equivalent to English's "frigging " or how Hongkongese say "超" in place of "屌".

    @Kirin, Duit was a unit of measurement in Dutch currency. There was a book by a Teochew language researcher in China in the National Library about Teochew word etymology, where he states that Malay-originated words like "kaki", "mata", "lui" are used by China Teochews due to the influence from Malayan/Singapore Teochews. For example, the pedestrian paths used to be called "ngou kaki" in Teochew, literally 5-foot-way.

  10. Chinook Man said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 12:53 pm

    "Nurse is called Mi-Si (I bet it comes from Miss.)" — Indeed; how about specifically from the older Chinese Pidgin English "missy"?

    Another CPE connection is perhaps "guli / kuli", i.e. "cooley".

    (For both, cf. Robert E. Hall Jr., "Chinese Pidgin English Grammar and Texts", Journal of the American Oriental Society 64(3):95-113.)

  11. Victor Mair said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 2:51 pm


    "…what was the book that You bought that had 迌 in the title?"

    The two characters [辶+日]迌 were printed large on the cover of the book. I took them to be the title.

  12. KIRINPUTRA said,

    September 17, 2016 @ 9:42 pm

    @ Mr. Mair

    A quick search didn't turn up any book called that — not surprising. Would be curious to know who the author was, if You come across that book.

    @ CH

    I'm pretty sure You're right on LUI. It comes from Dutch via Malay. I've also heard a Cantonese reflex of the word in Saigon Cantonese, pronounced like 雷 but in the 上平 tone. A 我 + 玍 (lān) etymology for WÁLÁU never occurred to me. Makes sense, though.

    The connection between TIĀM and Chinese 恬 is doubtful. The tones don't line up, and they usually do. It's likely TIĀM, 恬, and DIAM just sound alike by coincidence. A Malay-Hokkien connection wouldn't have to imply a loan one way or the other, though. Hokkien originated right where the pre-Austronesian ancestors would've left the mainland for Taiwan 5000-6000 years ago, and it's likely they "didn't all leave"…

  13. Victor Mair said,

    September 18, 2016 @ 9:49 am


    With the help of Mark Swofford, I have identified the author in question as Li Yongping 李永平 (b. 1947). Aside from the collection of short stories called chhit-tho [辶+日]迌 ([辶+日][辶+月]) (Play) published in 2003 that so intrigued me, he also wrote a short story with the interesting title Zhīnà〈支那〉("China") (2001) and many other works that wrestled with China's writing system and topolectal web, and with his own ethnic identity.
    Brief biography here.

    Check out other parts of this very valuable MIT website that are listed along the left side of the page. I'm very proud to say that one of the site co-directors is my former student Min-Min Liang and another is my friend Emma Teng.

  14. SO said,

    September 18, 2016 @ 1:20 pm

    Just on a side note — 辶+日 is actually part of the Unicode character set: (some fonts may still have no or only incomplete coverage of the relevant extension B though).

  15. Victor Mair said,

    September 18, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

    [辶+日] shows up in my Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail but not in WordPress.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    September 18, 2016 @ 7:41 pm

    From John Rohsenow:

    As I remember, we used to used to use the difference in pron.
    bewtween chhit-tho vs. thit-tho as one test to differentiate between
    northern and southern Taiwanese, as in the common polite ritual
    parting phrase: U ieng lai chhit-tho/thit-tho, 'Pls come again'.

  17. KIRINPUTRA said,

    September 18, 2016 @ 10:08 pm

    Mr Mair,

    Amazing! Thanks. I'ma look for Mr Li's books next time I'm in Taiwan.

  18. Victor Mair said,

    September 19, 2016 @ 12:48 pm

    From a native of Singapore:

    Thank you for the link. I spoke with my Mom yesterday, she did watch the second episode. She said the Hokkien spoken is very Singaporean – there's a mix of Malay, English and also some Teochew. It's similar to what she will be using in real life. However, she did agree that the script was likely written in Mandarin.

  19. Victor Mair said,

    September 19, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

    There is a Café Flâneur / Tshit-tho (thit-tho) Ka-pi [辶+日]迌咖啡 in Tainan, Taiwan, which is supposed to be one of the coolest coffee shops in Taiwan.

    Notice that they translate Tshit-tho as "flâneur" ("stroller; lounger; saunterer; loafer"), which — I'm being told by several people — better approximates the nuance of the Hokkien word as used in Taiwan nowadays than does "play".

    Chau Wu, whose work I discussed in "Eurasian eureka" (9/12/16), suggested that "It would be great if you perused the book by the same name (by Li Yongping 李永平) while enjoying a cup of coffee in that coffee shop." Next time I go to Tainan I'll do that!

  20. Victor Mair said,

    September 19, 2016 @ 4:36 pm

    I should have mentioned this book in the Cambria Sinophone World Series before:

    Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China

    by Alison M. Groppe

    It has a chapter on Li Yongping.

    Comments and bibliography by Bert Scruggs:

    I’m happy to hear that Mark was able to help you out. As I understand it, chhit-tho 迌 has a more nuanced meaning than “play” in as much as it can also be used to describe someone as a loafer or slacker.

    Thanks for the link to the MIT website, I’ve been sending students to it for Can Xue and Li Ang for years, but had not stopped to look at the Li Yongping section. Actually the first time I ran across Li Yongping was when I read a chapter by David Wang on Shen Congwen, Song Zelai, and Li in a seminar at Princeton with Perry Link while I was at Penn. Wang's chapter is below in the works on Li, which I copied and pasted for you from Kirk Denton’s MCLC bibliography….

    Li Yongping 李永平

    Chang, Sung-sheng Yvonne. Modernism and the Nativist Resistance: Contemporary Chinese Fiction from Taiwan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.

    Chen, Lingchei Letty. “Retribution: The Jiling Chronicles.” MCLC Resource Center (2006).

    Chen, Yaling. “Occupying the Literary ‘Heartland.'” Taiwan Panorama 23, 7 (1998): 100-07.

    Chiu, Kuei-Fen. “Empire of the Chinese Sign: The Question of Chinese Diasporic Imagination in Transnational Literary Production.” The Journal of Asian Studies 67, 2 (2008): 593-620.

    Groppe, Alison. Not Made in China: Inventing Local Identities in Contemporary Malaysian Chinese Fiction (Li Yongping, Huang Jinshu, Li Tianbao, Li Zishu, Singapore). Ph. D. diss. Cambridge: Harvard University, 2006.

    Lau, Joseph, S.M. ” The Tropics Mytho-poetized: The Extraterritorial Writing of Li Yung-p’ing in the Context of the Hsiang-t’u Movement.” Tamkang Review 12, 1 (1981): 1-26.

    Li Yongping. Contemporary Chinese Writers (Cambridge: MIT).

    Liang, Min Min. “Interview with Li Yongping.” Tr. by Min-min Liang. Contemporary Chinese Writers. Cambridge: MIT)

    Ng, Kim-chew. “Minor Sinophone Literature: Diasporic Modernity’s Incomplete Journey.” In Jing Tsu and

    David Der-wei Wang, eds., Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

    Rojas, Carlos. “Of Motherlands and Maternities: Spectal Topographies in Li Yongping’s Haidong Qing.” In David Wang and Joyce Liu, eds., Writing Taiwan: Strategies of Representation. Durham: Duke UP, forthcoming.

    —–. “Li Yongping.” In Edward Davis, ed., Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture. London: Taylor and Francis, 2005, 460.

    —–. “Paternities and Expatriotism: Li Yongping’s Zhu Ling Manyou Xianjing and the Politics of Rupture.” Tamkang Review 29, 2 (Winter 1998): 22-44.

    —–. “Li Yongping and Spectral Cartography.” In David Der-wei Wang and Carlos Rojas eds., Writing Taiwan: A New Literary History. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2006, 324-47. Rtp. in Rojas, The Naked Gaze: Reflections on Chinese Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008, 187-212.

    Sun, Ziping. “ An Interview with Li Yongping.” Contemporary Chinese Writers (Cambridge, MIT).

    Tong, Tee Kim. “Li Yongping.” In Thomas Moran and Ye (Dianna) Xu, eds., Chinese Fiction Writers, 1950-2000. Dictionary of Literature Biography, vol. 370. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2013, 149-56.

    Wang, David. “Imaginary Nostalgia: Shen Congwen, Song Zelai, Mo Yan, and Li Yongping.” In Ellen

    Widmer and David Wang, eds., From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentiety-Century China. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1993, 107-132.

  21. Victor Mair said,

    September 19, 2016 @ 8:38 pm

    From Jean DeBernardi, author of "Linguistic Nationalism: The Case of Southern Min", Sino-Platonic Papers, 25 (Aug. 1991):

    I've been meaning to forward an email from a friend in Singapore. I will do that today. He mentioned that many young people in Singapore can't speak Hokkien well, and that someone (I think his nephew) tried out for the Hokkien show you blogged about about and was told that his Hokkien was not good enough. As I said in my now very old article, the loss of literacy in Hokkien was a serious setback for the language since it pushed its status down. When I wrote that article Chinese Christians were still using the Hokkien Bible and singing Hokkien hymns, so they knew the literary vocabulary of the language, but when I did my research on Christians in Singapore and Penang from 1997-2004 I found that even that was changing and Christian leaders were promoting Mandarin use.

    Following are excerpts from an e-mail sent to Jean DeBernardi by Victor Yue:

    I am no expert in Hokkien (Minnan) other than a native speaker with only about 10% fluency and that percentage probably has diminished because of lack of exposure and use. Is Prof Victor Mair comparing the Hokkien he used to hear in Singapore or elsewhere? Over the years with the influence of Teochew and mix of Hokkien from different places, our Hokkien is almost a big mix. In the old days (maybe even now), each village in Singapore had its unique Hokkien, mainly because the villagers probably came from same village in China or at least were influenced by such local variants growing up.

    I am not sure how many of the members of the cast are actually Hokkien who spoke Hokkien growing up. I heard of one movie by Jack Neo where he "forced" his cast to speak Hokkien day in and day out to achieve fluency with the right tones. Challenging. You can imagine what the sounds were like. Even my children could not speak Hokkien properly. My nephew wanted to act in Jack Neo's movie but was rejected because his Hokkien was not good enough.

    The next challenge, as pointed out, is that Hokkien is usually written in Mandarin. I remember the Radio and Rediffusion news in various Chinese languages worked from the same Mandarin script. Unless one knows Mandarin or so called "Mandarin Hokkien" as one might hear in Hokkien Operas, it is different to understand. Even our Hokkien Operas are more strongly influenced by Taiwan. I hear more Taiwan slang these days. No doubt Ge Zai Xi was from Taiwan.

    We have a few Hokkien groups in Facebook, including one that tries to share the Chinese scripts for Hokkien words that are non-existent in Mandarin. Some are interesting in that they are Malay in origin, like suka (like).

    Tomorrow afternoon, we have a guy from Taiping, Perak, Malaysia, known popularly as Ah Kew, here in Singapore to give a talk on Hokkien in Malaysia. I think he will talk about the tone variations of Hokkien in different parts of Malaysia, from Penang to Johor. He was telling me the difference alone just between Penang Island and Tua Sua Kah (Butterworth).

  22. hansioux said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 4:04 am

    gang is 工 (TL/POJ kang), which as others pointed out means labor laborer work worker. coolie gang would mean a coolie worker, and gang rui would mean payment for labor, with rui being a malay loan word that replaces tsînn (錢). The usage of kang tsînn (工錢) is common in Taiwan.

  23. Chiang Cheng Kooi said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 4:18 am

    Minnan fujian language had it root since ancient China as early as Han and Tang Dynasty. There are lot of words that sound the same between Japanese, Korean and Minnan language, not they copy each other but they actually have their root from Tang Dynasty. Minnan use to be the lingua franca trade in Fujian ports city and fujian people had been traveling out from China since ancient times. so lot of fujian words are being borrow by nation around South China Sea. the pronunciation lot of these words might differ from the original version. Lot of malaysia malay language have their origin from indonesian wchich also borrow a number of word from fujian language. In Betawi language use "gue" and "lu" means i and you. Take malay words for example, lot of people think malaysian and singaporean fujian borrow from malay but it acttualy the other way around. Here are some example of malay words taht may have been borrow from fujian,
    Orang, malay means human, the fujian in ancient times most proablly call the dark skin malay olang means dark human.
    longkang = channel + river
    lorong = road + channel
    langkah = skip + leg
    kawin = kau-to hook = win-ean match
    daching = ching =to weight
    dukun = lo kun = doctor, there is a diety in medicine call Tai Siang Lo Kun
    ju on in kelantanese means gloomy sky, could be from hokian means jit um
    then you have kueh, taugeh, tau eau,mkuehtiau, o, peng, teh ketchup and the list go on for food vocabulary.
    and the list go on.
    So if we listen to malaysian, singaporean or indonesian fujianese people using word sound malay it could possibly malay borrow from minnan then return back to fujian.

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