Notes on learning Hokkien
There’s no official transliteration for Hokkien. In fact, there’s no official way of writing Hokkien. As such, for the English speaker, I recommend using the English transliteration, which is still in use in Taiwan. This script is called Peh-oe-ji The Chinese script requires… well… Chinese, which is really cool, but is unhelpful to the language learner unfamiliar with it.
The official romanisation that Taiwan uses is called Tai-lo, which has built on peh-oe-ji.
- Dr Meili Fang’s Spoken Hokkien is a really good place to start as it’s written for English-speaking learners of Hokkien. She also has a book on Spoken Chinese, found in the Mandarin page.
- Taiwanese Grammar: A Concise Reference. The review made by customer ‘Jen’ was the one that introduced me to the podcast bitesizetaiwanese.com below.
- Handbook of Romanized Taiwanese & Hokkien and Handbook of Taiwanese Romanization, this book is geared towards native speakers who want to write the language, or teach the language to their children. I am unsure how useful this would be for learners, but I am listing it here for completeness.
- Short Takes: A Scene-based Taiwanese Vocabulary Builder. From the creators of the Bite Sized Taiwan podcast (see below), this book helps you build vocabulary in Hokkien. You can find some pictures of how the text looks on the podcast’s website.
- List of books from Tailingua
- 吃饱没? (Have you eaten?), an info-ed drama series created in Singapore. The Hokkien used is the one found in Singapore/Penang and is slightly different from Taiwanese Hokkien. There are 4 seasons, the last season from 2018. Interestingly, the Hokkien used in the opening song uses Taiwanese Hokkien pronunciation.
- Bite Size Taiwanese. As the about us describes themselves: “Bite-size Taiwanese is a podcast giving you a taste of real, everyday Taiwanese. Co-hosts Phil & Alan will guide you through the ins and outs of the Taiwanese language with light-hearted, fun (and occasionally funny) bite-sized conversations about how to use it in today’s Taiwan.” There are 3 podcasts, Newbie level for newcomers, Elementary level for those with some background to the language, and Pronounce it like a Pro, focused on improving pronunciation with a focus on pronunciation that English speakers might find tricky.
- Speak Hokkien Campaign at www.speakhokkien.org. This link directs you to the English version of the site. There, you can find resources to help you differentiate the tones and learn to read and write Hokkien.
- My Father Tongue, this seems to have been last updated in 2020, but there’s still some material on learning dialect in Singapore. They also focus on Hakka, Teochew, and Cantonese
- Vaccinate Already? aka 您打疫苗没, a mostly hokkien song by the Singapore government with some mandarin and cantonese to encourage the elderly to vaccinate in Singapore. The main message is catchy enough that this tune could be used to get used to Hokkien sounds.
- MeWatch on Demand, free TV shows and movies in dialect!