How I teach Hokkien language to my kids?

Recently a friend asked me how to teach his kids Hokkien language. Like me, he is a father of two wonderful kids and also of Hokkien ancestry. However, both of them only converse to each other in Mandarin and English. He wanted to know how to teach his kids Hokkien.

speak hokkien language to kids

I told him to speak to his kids in Hokkien whenever possible. I also told him that we had been lied to when we were young. I remembered that my Mandarin teachers told me that Hokkien is a spoken language WITHOUT writings! What the fxxk! How they achieve this? See the historical time line at

The truth is .... just like Mandarin, Hokkien also used Hanzi and has own style of writings. Thanks to the Internet.... today I am able to tell my kids that Hokkien has its own writings. Don't get brainwashed by the school teachers!

Now, I able to consistently speak Hokkien to my own kids and my kids are able to converse to me in basic Hokkien. I remembered that myself was forced to speak Hokkien simply because my grandparents are unable to converse in Mandarin and English. Drawing the lesson from my own past..... now I simply tell my kids that I don't understand English..... just like what my grandparents did to me.

My friend also asked me why I insisted on teaching Hokkien to my children. Simply put, my mother tongue is Hokkien and not Mandarin. It is good for my children to become multi-lingual in future. Not just knowing English and Mandarin only. Knowing English and Mandarin only will put them in vulnerable position in the age of artificial intelligence. ( See my previous post about age of artificial intelligence)

There are other benefits as well and you can dig more information at the Speak Hokkien Campaign website

Teaching my kids the proper Hokkien/Ming-nan Hanzi characters.

Like most Hokkien people in Malaysia, I'm able to converse Hokkien(northern version) fluently, but UNABLE to write Hokkien. We use Romanized Hokkien sounds in Telegram, WhatsApp, etc. I want to be able to teach my kids the proper Hokkien Hanzi and thankfully I found Mr. Guo(郭于中) Facebook page that teaches the proper Hanzi writings in Hokkien.

His video series of learning one Hokkien character a day video 逐工一字(Tak Kang Jit Ji) 中文:每日一字 is extremely helpful.

To verify if I write the correct Hokkien Hanzi, I use to listen to the sound. Personally, I like because it can translate Mandarin(中文) to Hokkien equivalent. If you're a Hokkien-speaking "ang moh sai" person like me. Then you can also use Hokkien-English dictionary ( )

Below are some simple Hokkien that I used to teach my kids. To get the Hanzi writings in Hokkien, I have to improvise a little bit. I used sources from and (select Taiwan Ming-nan option).

  • Drink tea = 啉茶 (lim teh) 中文:喝茶

  • Drink milk = 啉牛奶(lim gu ling) 中文:喝牛奶

One of my mother's favorite Hokkien phrase.

  • Work hard and enjoy the fruit of your labor.Be lazy and swallow your own saliva = 骨力食力,荏懶吞瀾(ku lat chiak lat, lam nua tun nua) 中文: 努力吃力, 懶惰吞口水

  • A leaf born into this world, then the leaf must have a purpose in life = 一枝草,一點露(jit tiam chao, jit tiam lor)

(Meaning : when one is born into this world, one must have a path in life.) 中文: 有草就有露水,天生我才必有用。

  • Shout loudly = 大聲喝(Tua siaan huaat) 中文:大聲喊叫

  • Me and you = 我佮你(Gua Kah Li) or 我佮汝(Wa Kah Lu) 中文: 我和你

  • Poop = 放屎 (Pang Sai) 中文:大便

  • Laugh until want to have diarrhea = 笑到落屎 (Chio kah lau sai) 中文:笑到拉肚子

  • Buttock = 尻川 (Kah Chng) 中文:屁股

  • Stupid = 戇 (Gong) 中文: 傻

  • Don't be a stupid! = 汝莫戇矣!(Lu mai gong ah!) 中文:你別傻了!

  • Very spicy! = 死父薟(Si Beh Hiam) or 西北辣(Si Beh Luak)

In Malaysia beh means very... we use "si beh" to emphasize something. Originally it came from a vulgar word(死父)...which literally means ... death to your father. However, recently I notice that some new generation musicians on YouTube starting to use the less vulgar characters borrowed from Mandarin(中文) ... which is West and North(西北)

To listen on how to pronounce a Hokkien or Ming-nan words.

1) Visit

2) Select the Taiwan Ming-nan option and type in Mandarin or Hokkien hanzi.


Well, I don't have any summary to write. I will just pluck this line from

"The Speak Hokkien Campaign is a campaign that focuses on revitalising the Hokkien language. The campaign is organised by the Hokkien Language Association of Penang, which is a non-clan based and non-partisan organisation founded in Malaysia in 2014. The campaign advocates for reestablishing and expanding the use for Hokkien and encouraging parents to speak the language to their children. It also campaigns to reinstate Hokkien in the community and elevate the status of Hokkien to relieve the pressure for language shift."

References :

Mr. Guo 郭于中 Facebook page

  See also : Honestly speaking. I am Hokkien educated

By Adam Ng(黃武俊)

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