top of page

Speak Hokkien to Children


can delay the onset

of Alzheimer's disease 

by up to 5 years.

For more related studies

Further research indicates that compared to monolingualism, multilingualism is able to delay the onset of dementia for 4.3 years.

Speed of
Abstract and symbolic representation skills
of speech
Reading ability

Speaking Hokkien to your children and raising them to be multilingual...

helps them

There are bigger benefits for early multilingualism adopters.

Integrated data from 63 studies involving 6022 participants

Read the research papers 

Data from studies involving 853 participants

Your children will learn English and Mandarin regardless,

but only you can teach them Hokkien.

Children will not be burdened nor confused from learning multiple languages.

Children are able to distinguish between different languages. [1]

Children will not be burdened by learning multiple languages, they are able to distinguish between different languages as independent systems. [2] [3]

If your child mixes different languages while learning to speak, it is not due to language confusion, rather... 

they are yet to be aware that they are hearing or speaking several languages.

they are yet to fully grasp concepts and words; while they may know how to express something in one language but not in the other.

they are yet to be able to choose which language to use under different circumstances. 

In these situations, parents should teach and guide when necessary.

If children seem to be experiencing language problems, parents are encouraged to check for a possible medical reason, such as a vision or hearing impairment.


Parents need to cultivate the habit of speaking Hokkien to their children, to prevent them from gradually losing motivation to speak Hokkien while growing up due to external influences.


Both parents have to speak Hokkien to their children because...

Hokkien spoken by both parents would be slightly different in vocabulary and style. This would provide a more diverse language exposure for the children, compared to only one parent being the main source.

By the age of four, children will start to absorb most language input from the wider community instead of their parents. [4] Therefore, it is very important to give the children sufficient Hokkien language exposure from a young age.

What if one parent does not understand Hokkien?

Let the other parent speak Hokkien consistently to the children.

While communicating as a family, speak in a language understood by all, or by translating when necessary.

What if the parents themselves are not fluent in Hokkien?

Make it a habit to look up the Hokkien dictionary.

Adopt the 'multilingual strategy' depending on the situation; speak Hokkien when discussing family matters with the children and switch to other languages when discussing homework.

What if Mandarin or English is already an established language at home?

Start by speaking a combination of Hokkien and Mandarin, or Hokkien or English, and gradually increase the proportion of Hokkien over time. 

Engage in activities or play language games where usage of Hokkien is compulsory, i.e. tongue-twisters.

Introduce relatives or friends who would only use Hokkien to interact, and gradually increase the chances of speaking Hokkien.

What can be done if a child is reluctant to speak Hokkien after they start to attend school?

Insist to speak in Hokkien, even as the child responds in another language.

Instruct the child clearly to speak in Hokkien.

Be non-cooperative, such as pretending not to understand when children use the 'wrong' language.

This is our language.

We mustn't let it go.

- Jack Neo, Singaporean Film Director

Raising Hokkien-speaking children is largely

a matter of will, confidence, and perseverance.


[1] Serratrice, L. 2013. The bilingual child. In T. Bhatia, W. Ritchie, The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilingualism 2nd edition, pp. 87. Chichester: Blackwell Publishing.

[2] Harding-Esch, E., & Riley, P. 1986. The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents, pp. 49. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[3] McLaughlin, B. 1978. Second-language Acquisition in Childhood. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

[4] Bowern, C. 2014. Raising bilingual kids: Should you talk to your child in a different language? [Web log post]. Retrieved from

bottom of page