The New Year is the time to make resolutions. For many of us as overseas Teochews, picking up or improving our spoken Teochew is surely on top of our list.
The Teochew Store has identified three must-have mobile apps that can help us achieve this goal, and this week we review the 潮語作田人 (TeoAPP) produced by the Teochew Culture Club (潮汕文化協進會) in Hong Kong.
潮語作田人 App Introduction
潮語作田人 is a free app designed to promote conversational and literary Teochew, and at the same time introduce aspects of life in the traditional Teochew society. Using teaching materials created by Mr Hui Pak Kin, teacher of the Teochew Culture Club, it puts together learning of Teochew language and culture in a lively manner.
潮語作田人 App Features
The 潮語作田人 app has two broad segments. The first is a series of self-learning lessons, which are divided into three levels – beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
The beginner’s level has 8 lessons, which introducing a different set of vocabulary items, commonly used sentences (常用句式), vernacular terms (土話) and idioms (成語). You can learn each expression by listening to its audio reading, recognising its traditional Chinese written characters and peng’im, a pictorial illustration as well as its Cantonese written equivalent. At the end of every lesson, there is a simple quiz for you to test how much you have understood.
At the intermediate level, each lesson has a simple dialogue pertaining to a social situation (for example for a holiday trip), through which essential conversational phrases can be learnt. The contents of the intermediate and advanced lessons are apparently not yet completely added on.
The second section of the app is composed of a collection of short story readings and a narrative song (歌册).
The short stories are taken from the Teochew language novel 《作田人瑣事》 (“Trivia Tales of the Peasants”) written in the China Republic era by Mr Lim Iong-jue 林永銳. They are read out in Teochew, and you can choose to follow the text in either written Teochew or standard Chinese, which is extremely helpful for those of us who wish to acquaint ourselves with literary Teochew.
The single narrative song titled《百屏燈》 (“One Hundred Screen Lanterns”), on the other hand, may be a little challenging for anyone just starting to embrace the Teochew language and culture to understand. Narrative songs were sung in the past mainly by illiterate womenfolk, as an innovative way for them to learn about history and moral stories. As such their stanzas may be short, but the words contained are steep in meaning and require a degree of knowledge about Chinese literary culture to appreciate. However just by listening to the 《百屏燈》 read (or rather sung), we gain at least an excellent illustration on the richness of the Teochew literary culture.
潮語作田人 App Review
The fact that 潮語作田人 is developed by a group of actual teachers and learners of the Teochew language really shows. Many of the phrases introduced pertain to daily life. The contents are also neatly organised and presented in a manner that helps progressive and fun learning.
Most impressively the authentic Chinese characters (and not Mandarin substitutes or homophones) are used. When a Teochew phrase, especially vernacular terms, has no written representation (this occurs in about 30% of Teochew words), the phonetic peng’im code is shown. In any case you can listen to all the words taught read out by the click of the 聆聽 button.
If there is a downside to the app, it is the fact that it is an ongoing project. Thus not all the lessons have been added on. You may also encounter the occasional bug, or find a mismatch in the on-screen words and its audio file, but feedback can be given to the developer on the app’s official website.
Overall 潮語作田人 is a fabulous app that is clearly developed by out of a passion for the Teochew language. For some of us who do not read Chinese, we can only hope it will be followed by a Teochew-English version in the not too distant future.
You can also find in The Teochew Store a wide collection of free for download or for purchase resources for learning Teochew.
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