A fellow Teochew in the UK is running a blog, Learn Diosua Ue with Juyee 和如意學潮汕話, since 2013 to help English speakers learn and appreciate our mother tongue. Her name, you guessed it, is Juyee 如意.
Juyee's blog is at learnteochewwithjuyee.blogspot.com
Juyee grew up speaking English and picked up Teochew, both speaking, reading, writing only as an adult. The Teochew Store recently spoke with her to find out more about her blog and her personal experiences in becoming fluent in our language, a formidable task for many of us!
The Teochew Store (TTS): Tell us more about your blog, Learn Diosua Ue with Juyee 和如意學潮汕話. What are its highlights and what have your readers told you they like about it?
Juyee (JY): I have started other blogs previously and these were terminated by the companies which offered the facilities. I thought that Google would also terminate the blog but thank goodness it has not, as yet.
I needed an outlet to share what I have learned. I, therefore, decided to write a blog to share with people what I have learnt.
I think the most important posts for learners of Teochew are those pertaining to Teochew Pêng Im 拼音 [Romanised Teochew] and tones [sian1diao7 聲調] which allows learners to do tone practice and pronunciation exercises. It will be difficult for beginning learners of Teochew to put a set of these words together.
There are a number of Teochew characters which are not easy to find. When I find them, I publish them on my blog for other Teochew people to use so we can recognise our own characters. At some point in the future, I will put a post that gathers all our characters into a post so people can find and use them.
I also realise that I have accumulated a significant amount of knowledge and I thought that if I were to put them in a public place such as a blog, people can also use what I have learnt.
It is a way of helping Gaginang 家己人 [our own people] to improve in our bho2ghe2 母語 [mother tongue].
There are over 10,500 page views for this blog but there are very few comments and it seems that the provider has made it difficult for people to comment. I have turned its setting to allow anybody to comment.
TTS: You have been running the blog for about nine years now. What is your motivation? Do you feel you are achieving the goals that were set when you first started?
JY: I realised there are many English-speaking Teochew people who want to learn Teochew and they need to have things explained to them in English. The possibility of these people learning to read and write Chinese is practically zero (i.e. they will never buy Teochew dictionaries to find things out themselves). I thought I could be that bridge in helping these people to find their roots.
Do remember that in the last century fewer than thirty per cent of Chinese can read and write. Therefore, it is not necessary to learn to read and write in Chinese to be fluent in Teochew.
And it is the thought of helping these people which has motivated me to write the blog.
TTS: We understand that you grew up with English as your main language. What made you want to learn Teochew later on in life? How did you get started?
JY: When I first started re-learning Teochew over 15 years ago, my sister helped me at first. I could not even say le2 si6 di7diang5 汝是底[亻㐱] [Who are you? 你是誰?] My sister said my cui3 guê3 ngên6 嘴過硬 [my mouth was too stiff] and I could not say de1 豬 [pig] and de7 箸 [chopsticks] properly.
After a while, she told me to find a teacher. A Penang friend Ooi Kee How 黄啟灝 introduced me to his workmate Dio Chee Hong 張志鴻 who was from Swatow, and Chee Hong taught me for eight months and after that, I had enough Teochew to learn independently.
I wanted to learn Teochew to find my roots. One way to remove someone’s culture is to remove their language and many empires have done this, including the English! If one does not have deep roots, one is capable of doing all sorts of things which one will regret at the end, including being a hang3gang1 漢奸 [a traitor to our motherland].
TTS: Living in a non-Asian environment must have made learning Teochew even more challenging. What were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
JY: It does not matter where one lives in today’s day and age. One can hear the sounds of Dio’Suan 潮汕 anywhere in the world because of modern communications technology.
When I first started learning Teochew over 15 years ago, I could listen to Teochew Radio from Teochew City [潮州市]. However, it is now impossible, but one has Teochew videos galore on YouTube.
There is a huge advantage in learning Teochew from a video because one can rewind and pause it many times, whereas one cannot rewind a life radio broadcast!
TTS: Your blog posts are frequently linked to videos you watched on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Is this a way of how you learn and improve your Teochew? Enlighten us.
JY: The most important aspect of learning Teochew is to hear native speakers speaking Teochew. Therefore, listening to Teochew videos is a very important aspect of learning and improving one’s Teochew.
Teochew videos help one to improve one’s listening skills and say the words properly. One has to spend a long time listening to learn a language properly.
Another aspect of learning a language is singing. Therefore, it is a very good learning strategy to choose a couple of songs and learn to sing them properly. I recommend listening to 謝文榜 Zia Bhung Bang’s [TTS: songs available here] and 黃曉婷 Ng Hiao Dêng singing because their voices are clear and you can hear every syllable.
The Teochew Store has also uploaded a number of nursery rhymes onto YouTube [TTS: That's us! YouTube playlist link]. Learning nursery rhymes is also a good way to learn Teochew. In addition, The Teochew Store channel has a number of videos teaching people how to speak Teochew.
There are several Hê Hou Lai 夏雨來 [TTS: a character in Teochew folklore who uses his wit to right the wrongs] videos on YouTube and it is good to watch the character speaking Teochew [playlist]. In addition, there is Li M Dig 理唔直 [TTS: a fictitious character modelled after Hê Hou Lai] film which is worth watching [in 3 parts, available from this playlist]. Furthermore, the film Lim Dai Kim 林大欽 is also worth watching [In 6 parts, available from this playlist]. Finally, Professor Lim Lung Lung 林倫倫 [a scholar who leads in the field of studying the Teochew language; some videos in this playlist] and 方展榮 Bung DiangIong [a renowned Teochew opera artiste] are really worth listening to. Professor Lim teaches Teochew very well and there are a number of Prof Lim’s teaching videos on YouTube and over the Internet.
However, I suggest one begins with Si3 hion1 lag8 li2 四鄉六里 because their videos are short in length, very suitable for learners of Teochew [YouTube channel link].
I also suggest listening to cooking shows. I suggest listening to Iab Hui 業飛because his videos are short, and he does not speak quickly [channel].
When one’s Teochew has improved significantly, it is good to listen to 林江詖古[林江講古] Lim Gang puêh gou as he explains very interesting Teochew stories [some videos from this playlist].
TTS: Are there any YouTube channels that you recommend for beginners wishing to improve their Teochew?
JY: I watch Teochew videos from the following channels: Quek Khim Chua [channel], Teochew Culture [channel], Teochew Smiles [channel], 潮汕文化 [channel], 潮舖 The Teochew Store [channel link], Allan Tan [channel link], 呾破無酒食 [channel], 潮人文化 [channel], 潮菜叶飞 [channel], etc.
There is a drama series 傻仔婿与巧媳妇 [playlist] which I find to be excellent because the wife A’Ka 阿巧 is forever teaching the ngan3gian2 㦙仔 our Teochew language and therefore this drama series is very suitable for people wanting to learn Teochew.
The drama series Hion1 Im1 bug4 goi2 鄉音不改 [playlist] from Kok Nam channel is also excellent because the head of household is forever teaching his children Teochew.
TTS: Many people call Teochew a dialect. Some even disparaged it as not having a proper written form, unlike Mandarin. What do you have to say about this?
JY: Chinese has about seven groups of languages which are Guan Ghe [Mandarin] 官語, Ghou’ Ghe 吳語 [Wu, which includes Shanghainese], Gang' Ghe 贛語 [Gan, spoken mainly in Jiangxi], Siang Ghe 湘語 [Xiang, spoken mainly in Hunan], Mang Ghe 閩語 [Min, which includes Hokkien, Teochew and Hainanese], Kêh Ghe 客話 [Hakka], Uah’ Ghe 粵語 [Cantonese]. Teochew belongs to the Mang’nam Uê [Southern Min] group of languages 閩南話 and there are eight dialects in this group of Mang’namUê 閩南話.
To say that these groups of languages are dialects is so laughable that I am not going to get involved with such ridiculous discussions.
Teochew is one of the most ancient forms of Chinese language and we have kept many Middle Chinese language words and pronunciations. Teochew has glottal stops for those characters with tones 4 or 8 with pêng’im 拼音 ending with h, g found in Middle Chinese and the more modern Chinese languages have lost this.
Before the second half of the last century, everybody in our homeland who went to school was taught in Teochew and therefore to conclude that one must not write in Teochew is totally ridiculous.
Teochew is a very old Chinese language, and we should be very proud that our mother tongue is thousands of years old, unlike Mandarin which is only a few hundred years old. The 普通話 Pou'tong Uê spoken and written today is vernacular [Beijing dialect] Bag'gian Bêh’uê 北京白話 and is not the 官語Guan Ghe used a couple of hundreds of years ago.
I recommend all learners to make notes either using our Romanised Teochew [pêng’im 拼音] or using Chinese characters.