Learn Singaporean Chinese Dialects!

The other day, I visited the library and found these books:


They are locally made by a group known as Sibey Nostalgic (http://www.facebook.com/sibeynostalgic).

Each book will teach you 52 basic words in Singaporean Hokkien, Cantonese, or Teochew (apparently, there’s also a Hainanese edition, but the library didn’t have it).

I specifically mentioned “Singaporean,” because many of these dialect words are unique only to Singapore. Even people from Malaysia don’t recognise some of the words in this book.

You can use these books to teach your kids (or yourself) some simple dialect words!

Here’s a page from the Hokkien edition:


So as to make your learning easy, they’re using the Hanyu Pinyin system to give you a sense of the pronunciation. It’s not perfect (since Hanyu Pinyin is made for Mandarin and not the other dialects), but it gives you a rough sense of how it’s pronounced.

Here’s a uniquely Singapore word:


Radio is lay-leo in Hokkien!

It’s a bit of an eye-opener for me because I always thought people were mispronouncing the word. I didn’t realise that it’s actually Singaporean Hokkien!

Anyway, here’s the one page in the three books that amused me the most: it’s the way in which “toilet paper” is rendered in the various dialects.

Here’s the Cantonese version:


Look at that! It’s so refined. It loosely translates to toilet paper.

Here’s the Teochew version:


YES! In Teochew, it’s referred to as kah cheng zua (literally: backside paper!)

It gets even better! Here’s the Hokkien version:


YES!!! Haha! PANG SAI ZUA!!! Literally, shit paper!

This series of books is a great way to preserve local culture and dialect. I hope they make more books with more words!