Hokkien-Only Policy

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
aokh1979
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Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by aokh1979 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:20 pm

Hello Dear All:

I have started practicing Hokkien-only policy in Penang. Of course I dun include those who obviously do not speak the language. I target Chinese strangers. Let me share with you 2 experiences. The 1st one happened some time ago.

Experience 1:
I was passing by a credit card promotion booth in Queensbay Mall the other day. A very well-mannered and good looking gentleman walked up to me and asked in Mandarin: Mister, 有用信用卡嗎? I smiled at him and responded in Hokkien: Sorry, 我昧曉聽。 He replied: Oh, OK. And he walked away. Can't he even try to approach me in English or Malay ? Is Mandarin his ONLY option ?

Experience 2: (this happened only 3 days ago)
I and a good friend went to this very cozy little coffee shop named in a very commonly understood Hokkien word. We found an empty table and sat down. A very young girl (about the age of 14 - 16) came with a small notepad, asked us in Mandarin: 你們要吃甚麼東西? As usual, I turned to her, smiled and said: Sorry, 我儂昧曉聽。 And she walked away. I mean, she walked away because she dinno how to react. No, she din ask us to wait, she din tell us she'd look for someone else to help, she just walked away out of all sudden. A very friendly auntie came to take order, we cracked jokes and the whole afternoon tea ended well. Before we left, we heard the young girl telling the elderly that these 2 customers din speak any Mandarin. I and my friend heard it. I came home, I saw a friend of mine posted a photo of that same coffee shop in Facebook. So I left a rather simple comment, I said: Just came back from there. Food wise, the coffee's a little plain. Service wise, it's good but the youngest waitress walked away when we said we din understand Mandarin.

You know what happened next ? The owner is a friend of my friend too, unfortunately. She saw it and she left a bombastic comment in terrible English (worse than mine XD) that said: Thank you for dropping by today...... (removed 50 words regarding the coffee) ...... and you adults, how can you grown people test a little girl like that. Please bear in mind that she's still schooling and everything she has is just school and her family to teach her about life. I want you adults to think twice next time when you try to test someone. Please dun forget that Hokkien is not even taught in her school.......

Mamma mia. What have I done ? I grew up in a typical kopitiam, my father ran it and I helped serving since 13 but I spoke 5 languages. All I had was school and family too. Schools teach at least 3 languages, right ? If the customers dun speak Mandarin, can't she speak English or Malay ? If it's a Mandarin only territory, I suppose they should have mentioned it. What have I done so terribly wrong ?
Mark Yong
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Mark Yong » Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:22 pm

If I may offer my candid opinions on your friend's Facebook comments...

1. 14-16 is already secondary school age. She is no longer a ‘little girl’ as described.

2. Strictly-speaking, you did not ‘test’ her. All you did was make a statement. Granted, we all know that you were being mildly 乖卵 kūai-lân (and that be your only sin in this episode :mrgreen: ). But benefit of the doubt should be given to the customer that he/she really does not understand Mandarin, right?

3. I grew up and lived in Malaysia and Singapore for 90% of my life. There are infinitely worse things that coffee-shop staff have to tolerate from rougher customers, than being politely (you said “Sorry” and you smiled - to me, that's being polite) told “我儂【不會】曉聽” by a customer when using Mandarin to take drinks orders.

4. If your friend thinks that even that is too much, then she should not hire the poor girl and expect her to face customers. Now, I understand that sometimes, that option is not available. In that case, the parents should encourage her to use the other languages that she learnt at school. As a parent myself, I would opt for the latter. These are life skills. The common cop-out that I used to hear from overly-protective parents in Penang in response to the question on how long they intend to shelter their children from the outside world, i.e. “等到我目珠𠖫去先 tǎn kāu wǎ bâk-ciū khâm khî sēng is, to me, unfair and unkind to the child in the long run.

Okay, now that we have gotten my comments about your friend's Facebook post out of the way... :lol:

Therein lies the problem with the education system. Granted, the Malaysian Chinese primary schools boast a very high standard of Mandarin (and many testify that year-for-year, their Mandarin is of a higher standard than their Singaporean counterparts). But the corresponding development of fluency in English and Malay is lopsided. It does not help that the parents choose to speak only Mandarin to their children at home. The result is, the children effectively become mono-lingual in Mandarin. I once had a 15-year-old tell me in Hokkien, “我無看紅毛戲、因爲我不知伊儂佇講何物。”

And it is not as if their Mandarin is better than their counterparts in Mainland China or Taiwan (if so, then shame on the latter!). I have colleagues from Shanghai who speak much better English than many of the current generation of Malaysian Chinese school graduates, a generous sampling of whom I used to share an office with in recent times.

So, I do not fault the poor girl for not trying to speak in English or Malay to you. She probably could not confidently string a decent sentence together in either language to save her life. I hold the education system first, and the parents second, responsible for this sad state of affairs.
Ah-bin
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Ah-bin » Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:45 pm

I have to say I thoroughly approve of the "kan-na Hokkien" policy, but I think it's also good you are giving them an exit clause by allowing people to speak English or Malay. I started out in Penang with a "kan-na Hokkien" policy, and then realised that it was better to speak Malay to Malays, (no matter how bad, because your average backpacker can't usually even say "terima kasih", and I could do a bit more than that even if I punya-punya-ed a bit too much) and my Baba-style Malay was received better than no Malay at all. Then I found that so many Indians and Malays could manage I as well, so then i just tried Hokkien all the time first.

As regards the monolingual (?) Mandarin speakers, I actually find it amazing that some Chinese parents manage to isolate their children so much from their neighbours (including other Chinese who don't speak Mandarin) by not making usre that they are able to at least manage a bit of the national language, or even a creolised version of it, which is surely one of the easiest languages to learn in the world if you speak any kind of Chinese. Living in Malaysia, where you can listen to and speak about five languages in a single street, you'd think that parents would like to get their children to know as many languages as possible, but the trend seems to be instead to want to limit their opportunities as much as possible.

If people are learning Mandarin for practical purposes, then fine, but ending up purposely with no knowledge of any language but Mandarin seems to defeat the practicality of the exercise.

I think too many children in Penang now don't even have the same upbringing as before, they get driven toschool, live in high rise apartments, never meet people who are not of the same class or language background. Mind you if you work in a kopitiam then you don't really have that excuse.

One thing that I found disturbing was on afternoon in Queensbay Mall they were having a promotion and competition going on, and it was all being announced very loudly in Mandarin only. I thought to myself "If I were Malay or Indian I would feel very excluded by this, in my own country too". I know it is hard to find a language in Malaysia that doesn't exclude, at the moment there isn't one single language that everyone can understand, but I thought that Mandarin was a rather poor choice, and that they could at least have mixed it up with a bit of English or Malay to include more people in what was going on. My conclusion? Queensbay Mall is good for one afternoon, but give me 坡底 any day for good food and conversation.

You should post the video of me on your comment to show that I didn't learn Hokkien in school....maybe that is rubbing salt in the wound though.
She saw it and she left a bombastic comment in terrible English (worse than mine XD) that said:
Here I have to add, that it is extremely rare for me to find fault with any of the English that you write! I don't even notice that you are not a native speaker unless you remind me!
Last edited by Ah-bin on Thu Jun 02, 2011 1:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
amhoanna
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by amhoanna » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:11 pm

Good to hear about everybody's "kanna Hokkiàn" policies. I'ma have to go at it again with a vengeance next time I go to a Hoklo-speaking area.

Interesting that a new breed of sheltered, Mandarin-only kids are coming up in Penang. When I was in KL, I met a few Tn̂glâng that spoke bad Malay, but for some reason I've also met some KL guys and girls that speak constant Manglish and "switch themselves" to English with me.
amhoanna
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by amhoanna » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:21 pm

On a deeper note, I want to add that this is kind of a dilemma for me. On one hand I want to connect with people in any language. On the other hand I feel that there's something intrinsically lame about defaulting to English with a M'sian, esp. one that speaks Hoklo, Cantonese or even Mandarin. Even w/o those three languages (say in a written medium with an ângmo͘sái), my experience is that M'sian Tn̂glâng find it awkward to use Malay with me, much preferring English, and this is a product of the leftover, everyday colonialism that some would much like to bury.
SimL
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by SimL » Thu Jun 02, 2011 1:26 am

Ah-bin wrote:Then I found that so many Indians and Malays could manage I as well, so then i just tried Hokkien all the time first.
Oh, so what I wrote about (some) Indians in Penang is still valid today! Wow, great! I never knew it about Malays though.
amhoanna
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by amhoanna » Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:18 am

So, three days in Amoy, mostly upcoming. I'ma try some form of a Hokkien Only policy. Will assist myself by pretending not to speak Mandarin as necessary. Will let y'all know how it goes.
Ah-bin
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Ah-bin » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:27 am

Don't get too depressed.....

I had some dummies (native Hokkien speakers) actually reply in Mandarin "哦,你會說普通話" ("oh, You can speak Mandarin!") when I asked for things in Hokkien there. You might have a better chance because you aren't white. Good luck in finding ANY children who speak it in public, I couldn't this time, although I did hear one once the first time I went there in late 2006.
Mark Yong
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Mark Yong » Fri Jun 10, 2011 3:30 pm

Then it may be a bit better (but only a bit) in 上海 Siông-Hăi. The last time I was there in 2006, all the taxi drivers default to上海閒話 zan he ei-wO, unless you speak to them in Mandarin. I once showed a lady taxi driver a business card with my desired address showing “宜山路”, to which she automatically said, “宜山路、是勿啦? yi21 sEⁿ55 lu53, shi22 ve11 laa34? (the tone contour numbers are based on how I roughly recall her saying it).

Shanghainese is really quite intriguing, as it is a total opposite from the Southern dialects – where the latter have faithfully preserved almost all the Tang consonantal endings but have less-differentiated beginnings, words in the former can only end with a vowel, a glottal stop or –ng, but make up for it with a dizzying array of initials and vowels. I wonder how Classical Chinese texts would sound. But, I digress…
amhoanna
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by amhoanna » Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:56 am

The "Hoklo Amoy" experiment has come to an end, b/c I've left town, and what a relief -- not to've left town, but to be taking a break from the thankless job of speaking Hoklo in Amoy. :lol:

It's just too late right now. I'll be back later to update y'all on the details.

Interestingly enough, there were at least three kids under 10 on the plane who were talking in Hoklo, and they were talking a lot. I was surprised to hear two kids, brothers, speaking articulate Hokkien at check-in, and doubly surprised that their mother spoke to them in Hokkien too. They had a Coanciu accent. The third kid was with his mother. There was something very intriguing about the mother. In giâ--ê sī Hiongkáng hō·ciàu. Boé--á ciūⁿ huiki liáu'āu in cē goá piⁿ--á. This kid was just going on and on in perfect Hoklo, and his mother only spoke Hoklo to him. She (they) had a Coanciu drawl, which I really love, but theirs was "less exotic" to me (i.e. vaguely more Taiwanese) than the Cio̍hsai kind. Turns out she was from Lâm'oaⁿ, but made her way to Hiongkáng and Huili̍ppin at some pt. Kid was born on the islands. Get this, he gínná khah bô 7 hoè (ciuhoè!), íkeng ēhiáu kóng Ho̍hló oē, Hoâgí, Enggí (Chinglish), hoānsè Tagálo̍k, koh ēhiáu tha̍k kài coē hànjī, ah suijiân i teh tha̍k Tâi'oân-sek ê ha̍k'hāu, i soah ēhiáu tī tiānnáu phah Hàn'gí Pheng'im (Pinyin). And the whole time he was talking in Hoklo! But he got frustrated b/c I usually couldn't understand him the first time he said anything. I mean, the Lâm'oaⁿ pronunciations, esp. tones, and vocab -- which I would describe as "badass", very "original Hokkien" -- and all coming out the mouth of a kid... on-board a plane... It was something else.
Mark Yong
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Mark Yong » Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:10 pm

Can we import three of the kids, and plant one each in Penang, KL and Singapore for a three (3) year period to fast-track Hokkien-speaking there? :mrgreen:

On a more serious note. This episode of yours is interesting because it would reinforce the two extremes (and I suppose Ah-bin and aokh1979 would have experienced the same): On the one end, you get a broad spread of Hokkien speakers in communities such as Penang, Kelantan, Bagan, Medan, the Philippines, but (and here, I speak for Penang only, having not yet visited the other localities) the lexical and grammatical standards are generally limited and dwindling, with a lot of intrusion from other languagues. On the other end, the number of young people speaking perfect Hoklo in Mainland China is already extremely rare, but when they do, they do it very well, and oh-so-much purer than their 南洋 Lam-Ioⁿ counterparts.

BTW, amhoanna - True to my crap phonological standards (which is my way of saying it is no fault of yours!), I had to do a triple-quadruple take in reading your Peh-Oe-Ji. Here are some examples:

1. in (the contraction of 伊儂 i-lang) is not commonly used in North Malayan states

2. The in 護照 is pronounced hO by the 漳州 Ciang Ciu speakers.

3. Boé--á - Umm... what's this one? :oops:

4. ciūⁿ - Presume you mean ? Lovely word. Took me three reads to figure it out. I wish it was used more often in Penang, since is so much more common. If so, I am guessing it would come out as ciOⁿ. Remind me to buy a lottery ticket if any of you ever hears a Penang kid saying 上網 ciOⁿ bang and not receive incredulous looks from his mates. :lol:

5. huiki - This I figured out straightaway because of the context of the sentence.

Again, no discredit to your Romanisation -you had everything down pat. Besides, you stated upfront that they spoke 泉州 Coan-Ciu. Ah-bin was right when he told me that the Occidental style of reading silently will fall flat when reading Chinese - and I have found this to be certainly so when reading Peh-Oe-Ji!

You know, I sometimes have little fantasies about a secret society spread across the 南洋 Lam-Ioⁿ, where all the members wore black Mandarin suits at meetings, carried an identification seal (no different from the 19ᵗʰ century 義興公司 Ghee Hin Kongsi secret society's), did no modern electronic correspondences (to avoid detection), wrote only in Literary Chinese (to baffle anyone intercepting their letters), and - here's the puncher - communicated to each other only in Hokkien (廈門 Amoy, 漳州 Ciang-Ciu, 泉州 Coan Ciu... whatever). Now, if all of us could congregate like that someday, would that not be something... :lol:
Ah-bin
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Ah-bin » Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:13 pm

Nice idea, can we get 反燕復閩 tattooed on our feet too?

I'm guessing the reason why the boy speaks such good Hokkien is probably because he learnt it from his mother, so he has picked up the good habits of her generation in isolation from PRC Hokkien speakers.

As for most of the people in China in their 30's, even though they can speak Hokkien without putting foreign words in, the lexicon and grammar of what they can speak are already extremely Mandarinised. I remember asking some basic words to some people in Amoy that Aokh introduced me to, and they said that only old people used the words, and told me that they now said so-and-so, which was the same word in Mandarin just pronounced according to Hokkien. I just wish I could remember the examples.

So it was "pure" in that there were no Mandarin phonological borrowings in it, but it was still full of Mandarin-pronounced-as-Hokkien like 飛機 hui-ki where Southeast Asian Hokkien speakers preserve (not all of them, unfortunately) 飛船 pe-chûn.
aokh1979
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by aokh1979 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:28 pm

I still hear 飛船 puē-tsûn in Penang. Though I myself have been accustomed to saying 飛機 puē-ki already. I am writing a Hokkien play for Penang, most likely will be staged by end Nov or early next year. What I will do for the ticket sales is run a simple promotion to give out free to good Hokkien speakers. I will post like 20 questions about words USED in Penang but most likely forgotten by younger generation.
amhoanna
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by amhoanna » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:15 pm

On the one end, you get a broad spread of Hokkien speakers in communities such as Penang, Kelantan, Bagan, Medan, the Philippines, but (and here, I speak for Penang only, having not yet visited the other localities) the lexical and grammatical standards are generally limited and dwindling, with a lot of intrusion from other languagues. On the other end, the number of young people speaking perfect Hoklo in Mainland China is already extremely rare, but when they do, they do it very well, and oh-so-much purer than their 南洋 Lam-Ioⁿ counterparts.
Possible... I don't think I see this, though.
As for most of the people in China in their 30's, even though they can speak Hokkien without putting foreign words in, the lexicon and grammar of what they can speak are already extremely Mandarinised.
Not so fast. Do we really know what goes on in the Hoklo countryside? We talk about Amoy a lot on this forum, but Amoy doesn't represent the rest of Banlam. Not by a long shot!

I've found that Soàⁿboé / Háihong Hoklo is pretty Mandarinized. Lâm'ò (island outside Swatow) Hokkien is pretty Mandarinized. And Chonglâm Hokkien is very Mandarinized. In these cases, Mandarinization may've occurred indirectly, partly as a result of levelling btw two to four non-Mandarin languages.

But Banlam outside of Amoy? Let's not assume it's just one big Amoy or Soàⁿboé. Let's get it first-hand, fellas. Now I don't know much about Coanciu Hoklo. When I come across it, I have a hard enough time as it is trying to understand what they're saying and hold up my end of the dialog as well as just enjoy what I find to be one of the world's most beautiful languages, Coanciu Hoklo. But my impression from last night was that the kid and his mother were using words and structures that might be considered "old folks' Hoklo" or "country Hoklo" in a Taiwanese city.

Sūnsoà kóng--cē (ci̍t'ē), he lāubú mā saⁿca̍pgoā hoè niā'ā, hoānsè saⁿ'āsì-gō͘ hoè khatau. M̄ thang bēkì, in toà tī Huili̍ppin Ongpin (siaⁿtiāu bô kài khaktēng), a.k.a. Binondo. In '07 I went into the Seattle Café on Gandara in Binondo. The whole place was middle-aged ladies speaking Hoklo. Then I went to an internet cafe. The whole place was 13-year-olds speaking Hoklo w/o much code-switching, as far as I could make it out.
2. The 護 in 護照 is pronounced hO by the 漳州 Ciang Ciu speakers.
I think this is pan-Hoklo. U didn't see my raised dot? What do U guys think looks better:
hō·ciàu
OR
hō͘ciàu
3. Boé--á - Umm... what's this one? :oops:
Same as lo̍hboé 落尾 or lō·boé 路尾. I'm guessing lō·boé is actually just 落尾, but comes out of a dialect that merges o to o·. These exist on TW. I'm guessing a Chonglâm speaker would say coè'aū 最後.
5. huiki - This I figured out straightaway because of the context of the sentence.
This is actually a Chonglamism, or Amoyism. The TWese word is huilêngki (飛行機?), a Jap loanword. Compare with Korean pirengki (or something like that). Actually, this week 中山路 (Nakayama Street :mrgreen: ) in Amoy is hosting the biggest "Taiwanese night-market food fair" in Chinese history, with vendors, ingredients, and equipment all flown in directly from Taiwan. On opening night, I recall one of the vendors yelling out to the crowd, "... lóng sī cē huilêngki koè--lâi ê o·, goân ciap goân bī--ê!"

Personally I prefer 飛船 poecûn!
Mark Yong
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Re: Hokkien-Only Policy

Post by Mark Yong » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:23 pm

amhoanna wrote:
I think this is pan-Hoklo. U didn't see my raised dot? What do U guys think looks better:
hō·ciàu
OR
hō͘ciàu
Oops, sorry. Thought that dot was one of many specks of 塗粉 thO-hun on my filthy laptop screen. Seriously. :oops: In response to your question - the first one looks better. The less-cognizant readers will know where the two syllables split. And I like clarity. :mrgreen:

Actually, that leads me to another one - hO-ciau or hO-cio? (Okay, I can just see the rotten tomatoes being hurled in my direction for that obtuse question!) I know it's 照做 ciau-co but 照鏡 cio-kiaⁿ. Is it then a 讀册音/講話音 separation, or a contextual one? And I guess 福星高照 would be hOk-seng-ko-ciau, then?
aokh1979 wrote:
I still hear 飛船 puē-tsûn in Penang.
I have heard it before, but only from one speaker (who should be in her early 30's at this moment).

Another weird version I have heard (again from only one speaker, but a terribly unreliable one, if you ask me!) is puē-toh55 (high-level tone). Anyone heard of that one?
amhoanna wrote:
Same as lo̍hboé 落尾 or lō·boé 路尾.
Got it. I guess the Penang colloquial version is kia(u)-boe (which I suspect is a highly-contracted version of 去到後尾 khi-kau-au-boe). Reminds me of the crude term used in Penang - khiong-ke (which I was told is a contraction and tail-weakening of 去與儂姦 khi-hO-lang-kan! :mrgreen: )
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