About the

Speak Hokkien Campaign

The Hokkien language was a thriving language until the mid-20th century. It even expanded out from its place of origin and became the lingua franca in many places in southeast Asia.


However, it suffered a twist of fate in the second half of the 20th century when the development of the language was undermined by policies driven by nationalist and monolingual ideologies.

This brought about its removal from schools, media, workplace, and community, and as a result, the language started to decline.

The Kuomintang government in Taiwan launched the National Language Movement to promote Mandarin. Students were punished for speaking their mother tongues. The government also restricted the use of local languages in media.


The Burmese government implemented Myanmarisation Policy and persecute ethnic minorities. Anti-Chinese riots broke out in 1967.


The Singapore government launched the Speak Mandarin Campaign. All Non-Mandarin Chinese languages were banned from the media.


The Singapore government launched a campaign to discourage people from speaking Hokkien in the workplace.


The Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched the Speak Mandarin Campaign for the second time in Malaysia.


The People's Republic of China passed the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language law to restrict the use of mother tongues. The government's slogan 'Speak Mandarin and be a civilised person' implied that speaking one's mother tongue was an uncivilised act.



The Japanese colonial government launched the Kominka movement in Taiwan. Hokkien was banned and parents were forced to abandon their mother tongue and switch to Japanese.


The People's Republic of China removed Hokkien (alongside with other regional languages) as the medium of instruction in schools.


After the 30th of September Movement in 1965, the Suharto regime in Indonesia banned all Chinese language schools. Many people gave up speaking their language for fear of persecution due to heightening anti-Chinese sentiment.


The Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched the Speak Mandarin Campaign in Malaysia.


The Singapore government discouraged parents from speaking Hokkien to their children.


During the May 1998 Riots of Indonesia, the Hokkien speakers in Medan became the primary target.

About the Speak Hokkien Campaign

The Speak Hokkien Campaign is a campaign that focuses on revitalising the Hokkien language. The campaign is organised by the Hokkien Language Association of Penang, which is a non-clan based and non-partisan organisation founded in Malaysia in 2014. The campaign advocates for reestablishing and expanding the use for Hokkien and encouraging parents to speak the language to their children. It also campaigns to reinstate Hokkien in the community and elevate the status of Hokkien to relieve the pressure for language shift.

Our Proposition

The campaign proposes to reform the traditional ideology that associates language with individual ancestry to one that associates language with a territory. This proposal would prevent the domains of Hokkien from being taken over by other languages due to intermarriages and migration.

About  Hokkien

What is the Hokkien language?

Hokkien is also known as Minnan, Southern Min, Hoklo, Taiwanese or Fukien in different parts of the world. It refers to the language originally spoken in Amoy, Tsiang-tsiu (Zhangzhou), Tsuan-tsiu (Quanzhou), and most coastal areas of Taiwan. More broadly, it also includes the language spoken in Swatow (Shantou), Teochew (Chaozhou), Swabue (Shanwei), Huizhou in Guangdong and various counties surrounding Wenzhou and Taizhou in Zhejiang Province. There are several mutually intelligible varieties of Hokkien and Amoy Hokkien was typically regarded as the standard accent during the 20th century. However, due to the increasing prevalence of Taiwanese media, Taiwanese Hokkien is gradually taking over as the new standard in the 21st century.

Is Hokkien a dialect of Mandarin?

No. Mandarin originated from Beijing while Hokkien originated from Fujian province. A statistical analysis carried out, which aimed to determine the interrelatedness of languages using Swadesh list has shown that only 49% of 198 most basic words share a similar origin with Mandarin whereas 59% of the most basic words in English and German are cognates. [1]

This goes to say that German is not a dialect of English, neither is Hokkien a dialect of Mandarin.

Can Hokkien be written?

Yes. Hokkien literature wasn't given much emphasis as writing in Hokkien was discouraged in the past. The Classical Chinese was the only written language recognised by the Chinese imperial rulers. The earliest surviving book written in Hokkien was a playbook republished in 1566 called Le-keng-ki (Tale of the Lychee Mirror). Two copies of the book are kept in the libraries of Tenri University in Japan and Oxford University in the United Kingdom. It was a playbook written in the Teochew and Tsuan-tsiu dialects.


Hokkien written in the Latin alphabet was introduced by Christian missionaries in the 19th century. From 1835 onwards, Rev. Samuel Dyer of Penang collaborated with the editors and readers of the Chinese Repository to devise a spelling system for all Chinese languages and this attempt laid the foundation for the Hokkien spelling system. The system continued to evolve and later became known as Peh-oe-ji. The Taiwanese government improvised and standardised it in 2006 to cover major accental differences and renamed it as Tâi-lô

In the past few centuries, many versions of informal characters were appropriated to write Hokkien, which sometimes lead to confusion. In September 2009, 700 Chinese characters were published as a recommended written form for Hokkien.

How to write in Hokkien?
Please go to 'Learn to Read and Write Hokkien' page. Click here to enter:

圖片由CJ Bug提供



[1] 平山久雄,2002,〈從語言年代學看閩語的地位〉丁邦新、張雙慶(編),《閩語硏究及其與周邊方言的關係》香港:香港中文大學,頁4

[2] DeFrancis, J. 1972. Nationalism and Language Reform in China. New York: Octagon Books, pp. 20.