Wednesday, September 27, 2006

If You Don't Use It, You'll Just Lose It

Was reading Bernard's and Anonymous’ comments about being a Sinnin (another dialect group) but not being able to speak it. It brought back memories of my growing-up years in Penang. I had many Sinnin friends in my neighbourhood and I spoke their dialect and Cantonese fluently then. I can still speak Cantonese now, but I think I have lost Sinnin since leaving Penang more than 2 decades ago. Was trying to press the ‘recall button’ in my brain and hey, I can still manage a few lines:-

ni too muat? (what are you doing?)
nguai hong kai. oi pai sin (I’m slaughtering a chicken. Wanna do some prayers)


ni yew ki kor toi, ki kor nooi? (you have how many sons and how many daughters?)
loke kor toi, sam kor nooi (6 sons, 3 daughters)


but I remember the cuss words very well wor!

When I first went to Sabah to work years ago, I felt very lost then. I got a job in a spare-parts shop in Keningau and the people there speak only Mandarin, Hakka and the local Bahasa Melayu and I could not make head or tail of what they were talking about. The only words I heard throughout the day in the shop would be these few Hakka words “Kiam…..Chim…..and Teow….and Teow and more Teow.” Wuuahh, really leh, space is premium in a motor spare-parts shop – many items also hung (teow in hokkien) from the ceiling. So, one fine day when new stocks arrived and I helped them to sort out, I proudly tried out my convoluted mix of Mandarin and Hakka, “Wei, cher ker teow nar li ter?” All the storehands looked dumbstruck before one of them roared out in laughter. Aisehman….. Cukup malu, aitelyu!

I am an ‘ang-moh sai’, so I can’t read and write Chinese, save for my own name and my boys’ names. But I can pick up dialects and languages quite easily though, and by the time I left Sabah after 2 years, I was able to speak like a local. This, I believe is due to the fact that I am never afraid of someone laughing at me for my mis-pronounciation or mis-application of the words. If they laugh, nevermind, I also laugh together with them. That’s the fun way to learn, right?

But if you don’t use it, you just lose it.

posted by nyonyapenang at 12:09 AM, |


  At 12:44 AM Blogger angel said:
hahaha! tiao... i'm hakka but can't speak the dialect... but it sounded funny tho... :P

u banana nyonya arr... ohhh... me too! me too! but, i think i know a lil' bit more than just my name... do u think it's a lil' too late to learn all the liuliu cainis characters like now? (serious Q wan...)
  At 1:36 AM Anonymous Jemima said:
I remembered a Hakka pal teaching me how to say 'eat' in his lingo. To me, another "potato-eater" who neither reads nor write Chinese, it really sounds like 'shit'.
  At 2:20 AM Anonymous Angeleyes said:
I'm also a Hakka and a banana as well!!! However, can still read some very basic Chinese.

My Hakka is buried together with my greatgrandma lioa!
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  At 4:46 AM Blogger ikanbilis said:
too bad, i wouldn't know anything =P even stil struggling learning Hokkien. wah paiseh paiseh!
  At 7:11 AM Anonymous Erika said:
Good for you! Thick skin then can learn faster..

Which part of China is Sinnin from ah? Never heard of them before.. sounds really tough .. are they like khe?
  At 8:42 AM Anonymous ian said:
My cantonese wasn't too fluent either. And when I first came to Melbourne and mixed with some Hongkies, they laughed and laughed and laughed at me. Living with two of them for about a year nonetheless improved my Cantonese.

Anyways, I just have to ask this: What language is angel's liu liu belong to? What does it mean? I can't bear reading it one too many times and still not comprehend!!!
  At 8:46 AM Blogger ah nel said:
when i work in kl some of the customer laugh at me asking me why my cantonese sounds weird...i told them im from
even now in my company i used cantonese to some of them as i dowan to lose that language... ;)
  At 8:47 AM Anonymous suituapui said:
True! True! Like my coz came back from overseas and some relative gave birth and he asked if we should go "sang chute sua" (funeral); he forgot the Foochow term "seng-ngang" (visit mother in confinement). Refers to brains too...! Stop using it, u will lose it!!!
  At 9:15 AM Blogger Athena said:
Hi Fellow Sinnin...i speak sinnin..though not superb!
  At 9:50 AM Blogger Sasha said:
yeah..Ilost my touch to Hainanese when my grandpa passed away..
  At 10:01 AM Blogger Bernard said:
Hi nyonya, ya lorr... if u don use it, u'll lose it. The only sinnin I know is hiak farn (chiak pui, sek fan). I grew up speaking a Hokkien-English-Malay rojak at home :-)

I'm a banana too... but i'm trying to learn Mandarin lah now. Have to be "kau bin phui" a bit (actually, a lot) lah. My son is learning some Mandarin in kindy, so I have to learn to teach him oso. Now, can even give a public talk already (mug..mug..mug..and just do it!)

When I was working in Sarawak, I had to speak quite bit of Mandarin 'cos i couldn't learn the Foo Chow. (Sooo difficult lah, Iban was much easier to learn.)

erika, Sinnins are from southern China (台山, terror to type leh?).
  At 10:03 AM Blogger Kenny Ng said:
ni hiak pao mi? (u eat already?)

I'm 100% pure Sinnin ngen. I still use it with my parents, bros and my uncles. Too bad in KL no body can speak this dialect with me. It's really sad to see all my cousins can't speak it well, some can't speak at all!

That's y I can speak cantonese well coz from Sinnin to canto is easier than canto to sinnin.
  At 10:15 AM Anonymous ah pek said:
sinnin?? ngor mau sik!
Yes it's true that we learn as we speak and not afraid of being laugh at and can laugh with them actually benefits
I can't read or write chinese too
But like you said... no matter what if you don't use it, you'll just lose it
  At 1:28 PM Blogger AceOne said:
Can teach me anot?? when lession 1 start ar??
hahaha..liddat can talk hakka with me la! haha..speaking of accent i remember an ex-colleague whose dialect was hokkien and she tried to speak cantonese, it was very funny lor...
  At 4:43 PM Blogger JoMel said:
I can't even speak my own dialect. Foochow. 'Nuff said.
  At 6:21 PM Blogger Helen said:
Like angel, I'm Hakka but i cant speak it.

Come to think of it, being a Malaysian Chinese, we are very multilingual liao compared with other countries.
  At 7:56 PM Anonymous mashimaro said:
im hakka. i live in aust for a long time now. lucky i still can speak hakka, canto and mandarin. my younger sis can barely speak hakka. when we first came to aust,she was 3 and could speak hakka and canto very fluently. well as time goes by, went to school n start yapping in english instead.
so if u dont use it, u sure loose it.
  At 8:01 PM Anonymous mashimaro said:
ps i have a friend who refused to speak chinese to his mum when he was younger. he understands canto but cant speak it well. now learning mandarin as well. i have other friends who came to aus when they were young and chose not speak chinese until they reach high school and found the interest in the canto triad movies - young and dangerous, start picking chinese again!
  At 10:10 PM Blogger u-jean said:
i think that one learns language from one's maternal side. my maternal grandfather is a teochew who can speak teochew. my late maternal grandmother is a hokkien who spoke ONLY hokkien so all her children ended up speaking hokkien. my dad, a pure teochew, but ONLY speaks teochew to my late grandfather (who speaks ONLY teochew), and also to my grandmother and his elder brother and elder sis, so i ended up speaking hokkien and incapable of forming a single teochew sentence. my children will most probably end up speaking hokkien...

i need a teochew dialect teacher
  At 11:00 PM Blogger Chen said:
yeah.. i agree.. if u don't use it, u will lose it.. I haven't use foochow dialect for ages already since I left Sarawak :P
come to think of it, i think it's a shame really, if we completely lose our dialects. just like my 2 boys, they can understand hokkien fairly well but they speak kinda out ot tune la. LOL
seriously, if you can spare the time, i think it's a good idea to pick up Mandarin.

hahaha....good what, eat potato, then shit potato... LOL

I think all those Hakkas in penang speak hokkien more.
since you can read the basic chinese, perhaps you can refresh with some new reads, no?

there you go - paiseh la, chit puat, nor puat la, got someting already. but i notice that those non-chinese in penang can understand basic hokkien and some can speak well too.

bernard answers your question.

i think hongkie cantonese has a slightly different twang, no?
as for angel, she's a 'banana hakka' LOL. and the 'liuliu' thing, i think is a private code.

ah nel,
tell them la, you little bit angmoh, so got slang lor. ;)

aiyoh, lucky thing your coz didn't say it to the new mother. :O
i really catch no ball where foochow dialect is concerned. hardly come across anyone speaking it here.

hi athena, welcome!
yay, keep it alive!

am sure you can still understand even you may not be fluent speaking it. ;)

aisehman, quickly go jumpstart those brain cells and try speaking to your other family members.
then come & help me jumpstart too.;)

hey, now you can also help to tutor me. btw, the 2 lines i wrote in the blog, correct or not jek?

ah pek,
ngi hay haknyen ah? mak kai hak jek?
how tor choong wor?

lidat baru ada fun mah.

go register with cikgu kenny ng.

ngai kong chor, ngi mm choon siow hor? kakakaka....

proly, if you do speak, it will be some kind of rojak. LOL

ngi yew hay hakka ah?
i think in ipoh, many of the hakkas speak more of cantonese hor?
my BIL in ipoh also origin hakka but cannot speak a word.

i guess you must have put in alot of effort to keep those dialects, especially when you are in kwailo land. good for you. ;)
just like my younger boy la. now have some mandarin-speaking frens and is listening to mandarin songs.
  At 12:14 AM Blogger angel said:
wow! alotta Hakka yin here! sumua ka ki lang!

your 2 boys speak hokkien out of tune becos here not penang... last time, my mom didn't teach me hokkien because we speak mandarin at home. yeah, my cainis is limited to oral mandarin nia... i learn hokkien from frens @ school and cantonese from the TVB dramas! LOL! yeah, that's how i learnt my dialects ;)

oh dear, poor ianliew, i guess i owe you guys some explanation abt my liuliu language eh? this is the link to the liuliu explanation. nothing coded actualiu... hehe...
  At 12:48 AM Blogger Kenny Ng said:
very accurate! so glad u still remember it. tutor ah? haha... no prob!
  At 2:07 AM Blogger Bernard said:
Kenny Ng, i should learn from you too then. Wondering this: Why are we called "sinnin ngen" when the origin is from taishan? How do you say "taishan" in sinnin? How do you say, "Good morning, I love you" in sinnin? Too many questions or not?

So many hakka yin here hor? Actually, my chinese name is hakka, "yoon ngen". Becos my grandfather oso banana, so my name was given by his best friend, who's hakka.
  At 8:20 AM Blogger Kenny Ng said:
bernard: come come... u and nyonyapenang come together and we speak sinnin wa.

ok... y we called as sinnin ngen, i also dunno. Taishan in sinnin called 'Hoi San'. Morning is 'Dou San', I love u is 'Nguai Uai Ni'.

Many thought my sur name Ng is 'yellow' in chinese word, but it's not... it's 5 in chinese word. As I know this sur name confirm is Sinnin Ngen. Sur name with Mui (Anita Mui mia Mui) also Sinnin Ngen.
that's why we say 'mother tongue'. ;)

dr chen,
try out your foochow with lil'joy. ;)

got so many blogger frens of different dialects very lau juak hor? ;)

i tend to mix up a few words of hakka & sinnin. you so kind to want to tutor me - mm kwai sai. ;)
btw you know 'siyap'? it sounds something similar to sinnin.
  At 8:40 PM Blogger Kenny Ng said:
nyonyapenang: siyap ah? never heard, as i know Hoi Peng also same like Sinnin.
  At 8:16 AM Blogger Chen said:
i'm xinhui - one of the dialect in siyap :D
dr chen,
i learnt something new - xinhui.
where is this dialect mainly spoken?
  At 3:52 PM Anonymous Lou Muai said:
OK, let me tell you guys about this Sining stuff. The district is called Sining (hokkien) or San-ning (cantonese). The district's name was changed to Toishan (cantonese), Taishan (mandarin) or Hoisan (Sining)in 1917. It's near Guangzhou in Guangdong & is part of the "Sei-yap" greater district. Sei-yap means 4 districts & consists of San-ning, San-wui (Xin-hui), Yan-ping & Hoi-ping [all cantonese pronunciations]. The Sining dialect belongs to the cantonese family. The Toishanese people, up to the 1970's, were the predominant Chinese group in North American chinatowns & were also common in Australiasia. They are also common in Penang & Kedah. However, most of their descendants now speak northern hokkien or cantonese. In fact they don't even know their own origins. Those people in Penang/Kedah who are above 40 would have heard of them. They were, traditionally, into the goldsmith & building construction businesses. Famous Sining people include Anita Mui, Dr Wu Lien Teh, Tony Leung, Julius Chan (PNG), KL Goon, Beyond band members, etc. In Penang/Kedah, their sirnames include Goon, Gee, Boey/Moey/Moy, Chin, Wu, Ng, Foong/Fong, Leong, etc.