Keeping dialect alive

THERE are over 6,500 languages in the world and almost half are in danger of extinction.

Tan Siew Imm said Penang Hokkien, which uses words loaned from Malay and English, may just be on this endangered list.

So, Tan set out to ‘protect’ her mother-tongue.

She came out with the Penang Hokkien-English Dictionary, which carries over 12,000 entries.

The dictionary, compiled after more than three years of research, was launched at Sunway University.

Designed to be user-friendly for both native speakers and learners of the language, it lists Hokkien words and terms, and their definitions in English.

On top of having direct translations, it also provides the cultural context for certain words. For example, ong lai hua, literally an unripe pineapple, is an offering during Chinese New Year prayers.

The dictionary also has an English-Penang Hokkien glossary which translates common phrases such as, turning over a new leaf, taking a lion’s share, and a bad workman blames his tools.

Tan used to be a lecturer at Sunway University’s Centre for English Language Studies but retired six months ago.

The dictionary is funded by a research grant from the university and is published by the Sunway Education Group as part of its commitment to community development.


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