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mandarynski

My Taiwanese (Hokkien) adventure. From zero to fluency.

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AMHOANNA

Correct w/o a doubt. The Japanese framework would be excellent for the Hoklo tongues and for Vietnamese. The concept of there being "a colloquial stratum" is fruitless in the Hoklo context. It's better thought of as multiple strata. The literary stratum is more amenable to that, with the caveat that many kanji are polygamous "poly-etymic" across the 'Sphere -- 行 comes to mind.

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歐博思

In your experiences what has been the best romanization or learning characters (to include bopomofo) when learning Hokkien, specifically as spoken in Taiwan?

 

I was feeling like I had a good start with POJ, and then I came across the system used here and wanted to rip my hair out trying to read it. I'm wondering whether I could transfer my basic knowledge about the Japanese-type spellings and start studying Taiwanese with bopomofo, or if I should focus on POJ material?

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Lu

To my knowledge, POJ is still the most common transcription system.

 

A problem with Taiwanese is that 1) it has no official transcription system that everyone uses always, like pinyin (or Wade-Giles before that), and 2) its speakers generally have little idea of the advantages of having one official transcription system. So it sometimes seems everyone makes their own, even though everyone using one mediocre system is much better than everyone using their own personal very good system (xkcd has a comic about it). From a quick look at the system used on that website, it looks like MLT is similar to what Gwoyeu Romatzyh is for Mandarin. I hope professor Liim had fun designing it.

 

All in all, if I were you I'd use a system that is used in a decent amount of material from different sources; that is used in at least one textbook that you can use; and that has at least one teacher who masters it and can use it to teach you Taiwanese.

 

Learning the characters is fun too, but I don't think it needs to be the focus of your learning. Assuming you already know Mandarin, you can pick up the more useful of the characters used for Taiwanese as you go.

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歐博思

I hope he had fun too, and that was a good comic.

 

POJ J/Ch/Chh and Ji/Chi/Chhi seem tricky and random. For instance the character 跑 'chau2' I hear more like pinyin 'zao4'.

 

Here's my Youtube teacher, I'm learning a lot from her focusing on listening.

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AMHOANNA

It's two reasonable choices at this time: Péh-ōe-jī (POJ) and Tâi-lô, which is basically genetically modified POJ. Tâilô is really OK, but I recommend POJ over Tâilô unless You a schoolkid in the ROC.

 

POJ J/Ch/Chh and Ji/Chi/Chhi seem tricky and random. For instance the character 跑 'chau2' I hear more like pinyin 'zao4'.

 

Pinyin z- corresponds to POJ ch-. Pinyin c- corresponds to POJ chh-. Pinyin consonant values is mostly taken from English consonant values. POJ consonant values is mostly taken from Romance consonant values. Asian, African and American languages that use the Latin script tend to go by the Romance consonant values. IPA does too. It's not that POJ is offbeat. It's more that (modern) English is offbeat (not a bad thing in itself), and Pinyin followed English.

 

Clicked through to that video. Didn't have a chance to watch or listen to the video, but keep in mind that neither the ROC government nor "communities that still teach Taiwanese" have ever recommended what she calls the "updated Taiwanese alphabet". Use it if You dig it, but keep in mind it's got zero social or literary currency.

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歐博思

Then could I say POJ letter "j" is a bit like the fairly common English exonym "beiJing" or maybe French people's stereotypical English "the" -> 'Zee'?

 

 

edit: Taiwan's Ministry of Education has an online dictionary with pronunciations and tone sandhi. It's only in characters but I'm really digging it.

Edited by 歐博思

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AMHOANNA

POJ "j" stands for a "phoneme" with potentially different "realizations" depending on the "environment" — e.g. whether it come in front of a "i" vs in front of a "a".

 

In many dialects, the phoneme represented by "j" done merged into the phoneme represented by "l" (common on the West Shore and in the urban North). In others, it's partly merged into the phoneme represented by "g" (common in South Taiwan). Many speakers today is "confused", and mix all three types of "j".

 

Where the phoneme "j" is entirely intact (common on the North Shore, away from shore in Middle Taiwan, and in the South), it may be realized as an affricate or as a fricative, and it may or may not be palatalized. The palatalized affricate is probably the most common of the four combinations. 

 

 

could I say POJ letter "j" is a bit like the fairly common English exonym "beiJing"

 

Take out the lip rounding and You'd have the palatalized fricative, going by my last paragraph. I think this is a common pronunciation in the Hokkien they speak in Singapore and nearby parts of Indonesia.

 

or maybe French people's stereotypical English "the" -> 'Zee'?

This would be the non-palatalized fricative, common in Taiwan.

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歐博思

Very interesting. That explains 今仔日 I was hearing as kin-á-li̍t. I wonder if I would be totally off-base guessing that this common confusion of sounds is related to Malaysian and Singaporean Hokkien being easier for adults to learn.

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AMHOANNA

Merging /j/ into /l/ is a classic 泉州 sound change. It probably spread out of urban 泉州 before Hoklophones ever settled overseas en masse.

 

Malaya (MY + SG + arguably Brunei and parts of ID) Hokkien IS easier for adults to learn. This is a linguistic as well as sociolinguistic thing. 

 

For sociolinguistic reasons, language shift away from Hokkien has taken place much faster in j-l merge zones in both Malaya and Taiwan. If You look at the "historical sociolinguistics" of it, it's not coincidental. (It's got nothing to do with the phonology, but rather with the sociology of the matter.)

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歐博思

Super props to this guy for making a video showing tone change rules in the context of a sentence.

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AMHOANNA

Keep this in mind: the idea that the tones is somehow "changing" is just a bigtime complication of the whole matter, i.e. each toneme consist of a running tone and a standing tone.

 

This is third cousin to the idea that to get good in a language, You must analyze and articulate the underlying rules to death. I say — go through 100 sentences with the run-stand pattern marked out by a sapient Hokkien speaker. Understand the pattern w/i each sentence. That'll get You 80-90% there. The other 10-20% partly dialect specific anyway. As a rule, Taiwan and Amoy "run" more. Luzon and Inner Malaya (up to Melaka, Riau and maybe Klang) "stand" more. Outer Malaya (centered on Penang & Medan) stands even more.

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歐博思

Speaking of massive-input:

 

5C. If You like the massive input approach (and I do) and You know either Mandarin or Japanese, You can use these materials put together by a gentleman from outside Amoy: http://hokkienese.com/?p=715

 

The website shows "文字佮音頻", but I can't seem to find said audio recordings on his website. Does he still have them online or by chance would you have them and be able to send them to me?

 

Also, "run" and "stand" are respectively equal to "change original tone" and "preserve original tone" I presume.

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歐博思

Has anyone found some fantastic iPhone or Android app which helped them increase their Hokkien fluency that they'd like to share?

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AMHOANNA

The audio is on TUDOU now: 

http://www.tudou.com/home/limkianhui/itemSearch?keyword=常用

 

«Also, "run" and "stand" are respectively equal to "change original tone" and "preserve original tone" I presume.»

 
Tadpolenese's "running" tone is what much of academia calls the "sandhi" tone, or 変調. Tadpolenese's "standing" tone is what much of academia calls the "citation" tone, or 本調. Not sure about the "changed / preserved original tone" terminology — never seen it.

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oceancalligraphy

 

edit: Taiwan's Ministry of Education has an online dictionary with pronunciations and tone sandhi. It's only in characters but I'm really digging it.

 

 

Actually, moedict is developed by g0v, a citizen group working to make government data transparent. An introduction to their work, including the beginning of moedict is available at http://g0v.asia/tw/

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AMHOANNA

The Moedict interface works like a mirror of the ROC Hokkien-Mandarin-Hokkien dictionary. The mirror used to be faster. Lately it seems like the mirror slowed down while the government site got faster. 

 

The Hokkien Hanji used by the ROC are an interesting study in politico-socio-linguistics. They claim to be based on "popular" traditional Written Hokkien, but much of what they call "the people" is just dictionarians, linguists, and Sinologists of the 20th century, while works written in Hokkien for purposes other than talking about Hokkien are routinely ignored. The academics — mostly under ROC rule — ignored the actual popular Hokkien literature while collectively dreaming up this Sinologist wet-dream version of Hokkien Hanji. And the ROC actually adopted this Sinologist version as a matter of course, while the workaday popular tradition remains in the shadows. 

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ParkeNYU

^ That's called prescriptivism, which allows the next century's readers to understand the previous century's writers. Prescriptivism is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, especially in language, as the character and rime books demonstrate very well.

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AMHOANNA

Not sure how You got there. Not allowing this century's readers to understand last and last last centuries' writers is exactly what the ROC's Hokkien committee has done.

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calibre2001

1A. The dialects (emphasis on the plural) of Hokkien spoken in M'sia and Singapore are easier for adult learners, for reasons I can get into if anybody's interested. BTW Amoy Hokkien is just like Taiwanese. But the Hokkien spoken in most of the rest of Hokkienland (southern Hokkien, or Fujian in Mandarin) can be pretty different, lexically and phonologically.

AMHOANNA, great Hokkien info posts. Hope you wouldn't mind sharing on why SE Asian Hokkien is easier to learn. On top of that, is it possible to shed light on how one could approach learning M'sia/ Singaporean Hokkien?

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AMHOANNA

Sure, with the caveat that this doesn't apply to all SE Asia dialects of Hokkien, only the main ones, spoken in Malaysia, Singapore, and in and around Medan on Sumatra. Let's call these "MSM Hokkien" for short.

 

Leveling @ grammar

 

The grammar is more leveled. Less exceptions to every rule. Less quirks. You learn the basic rules in Week 1, and most of the language pretty much works that way. This is partly from the impact of lots of adults from different backgrounds learning and speaking Hokkien as a second language. Some of what's gone on could be called creolization, I think.

 

Leveling @ vocabulary

 

Continuing on the same theme, MSM Hokkien tends to use a smaller range of words, but with each word being used more creatively. Vocab in the "original" Hokkien as spoken in Taiwan, on the other hand, is really fine-grained and idiomatic, not as easy for an adult learner to control.

 

Social attitudes

 

People in Taiwan and Hokkien (the province) are snobs when it comes to Hokkien, driven by an insecurity that makes it worse. You're expected to speak Hokkien like a native or not at all, unless You're White or Mediterranean, in which case they'll probably try to use You for English practice. Depending on where, there's also a lot of shifting away from Hokkien toward Mandarin. That makes it trickier to speak Hokkien there, if You were planning to. Whereas, Penang/Medan has the least shifting of any Hokkien-speaking urban areas in the world, and no snobbiness. And Singapore/Johor probably has worse shifting than most of Taiwan/Hokkien, but w/o the snobbiness.

 

Advice for learning MSM Hokkien

 

First I'd immerse in online media in MSM Hokkien, e.g. movie scenes in Hokkien out of Singapore, and Astro Hua Hee Dai if You can get it where You are. Even just have it playing in the background. If You want to use print materials, pick a dialect. Pick either Penang/Medan (mostly the same thing) or Singapore/Johor. There are other dialects, but You won't find much on them, except Klang, which can be heard a lot on Astro Hua Hee Dai, Malaysia's Hokkien TV station. Singapore materials will eventually prepare You for Klang Hokkien too. In a pinch, You can also use Amoy materials for Singapore. Learning Singapore Hokkien might be more academically satisfying, since You can use the Amoy stuff, but speaking Hokkien in Penang/Medan would be way more fun. If You ever wanna "hit the streets" in Hokkien, this could be frustrating in Singapore/Johor, but Hokkien is a full-time tongue for millions of people around Penang/Medan. Klang and (strangely enough) Kuala Lumpur are somewhere in between Singapore and Penang on this too. Also, worldwide, almost all tweets in Hokkien come out of Medan, but cut with Malay (bahasa Melayu / bahasa Indonesia). Last, I recommend learning some Malay. There's so much Malay in MSM Hokkien, as well as a lot of Hokkien in Malay. In any case, don't hesitate to ask people what they think of the materials You find for learning Hokkien.

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