How can I learn Hokkien in Hong Kong?

If you want to learn Hokkien for business purposes, communication purposes or just for fun in Hong Kong, how and where can you learn it?

Here are some channels that we recommend:

Hokkien courses

Currently, there are 3 institutes in Hong Kong offering Hokkien courses.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions - Spare-time Study Services
The HKFTU provides Hokkien courses at beginner's level, intermediate leveladvanced level and an extension course.

HKUSpace - Basic Minnanhua
This course focuses on the use of Hokkien in Taiwan context.

Hong Kong Baptist University - School of Continuing Education
It provides a Hokkien language course called Learning Fukenese for Fun for interested public.


Another method is to go online to learn Hokkien, there are many resources that you can access to at Taiwan official language websites.

Taiwanese Hokkien Online Dictionary
Compiled by Taiwanese Ministry of Education, visitors can look up common Hokkien words and get to know their pronunciation.

Taiwan National Languages Committee
You can get the most updated language situation in Taiwan, including Hokkien (of course!) and many other indigenous languages in Taiwan. You can also download the Hokkien computer input method from this page.

There are two online lectures teaching Hokkien vocabulary and some daily conversation, e.g. greetings.


Want to learn Hokkien with your smart phone? Here are some interesting apps that allow you to learn Hokkien in a funny way.

Taiwanese Fruit

There are many more apps that make learning Hokkien interesting!


Use of Hokkien in political context

Given that there are more than a million citizens of Fujian origin (as mentioned in Oriental Daily), gaining support from Fujianeses is essential for politicians. The following news report pointed out how influential Fujianeses are in the Eastern District. (from 1:44)

Who would pop up in your mind when it comes to famous Fujianese in Hong Kong? I guess
Choy So-yuk is a possible answer. Choy , who was born in Jinjiang, Fujian, was a  Member of Legislative Council as the representative for Hong Kong Island constituency from 2000 to 2008. Currently, she is an elected member of Eastern District Council(Eastern district is largely populated with Fujianeses). She has so many Fujianese supporters that the press jokingly said that she was the spokesperson of Fujianese.Choy demostrated how to gain support from them. In the following clip. In her election campaign four years ago, she urged people to vote for her in Hokkien. The use of Hokkien reinforced her identidy as a Fujianese. By doing so, she affliated with other Fujianeses in Hong Kong


Taiwan Pop songs in Hokkien!

Hokkien has always been considered as a language of the hillbillies. Proficient speakers of Hokkien are usually aborigines or come from Southern Taiwan where is normally seen as less developed region than Northern Taiwan. In recent decades, Hokkien has gradually transformed to be a family language, younger generation's proficiency in Hokkien declined. Mandarin speakers with traces of Hokkien accent were thought to have low education level. However, in recent years, it becomes fashionable to incorporate Hokkien lyrics with pop music. Some of the very popular groups and singers not only sing, but also rap in Hokkien.

Here presents some of our picks!

蘇打綠 - 無眠 (Soda Green - No Sleep) - A Hokkien love song

S.H.E. - 我愛雨夜花 - S.H.E. raps in Hokkien

Pop culture is often effective in promotion of minority languages and dialects. It is especially useful in promoting the languages among younger generation. As Hong Kong youngster pay quite a lot attention to Taiwan pop culture, these pop Hokkien songs help increase the popularity of Hokkien in Hong Kong community. Teenagers actually learn the songs in order to sing them in karaoke!


The most famous Hokkien song!

Ah Fat does not remember many Hokkien words. When asked how he picked up Hokkien words, he said he sometimes listened to Hokkien songs, which his uncle enjoyed at home. Ah Fat found Hokkien songs encouraging and sometimes reflects social issues. Now, let's have a taste of it!

One of the most famous Hokkien songs is 愛拼才會嬴(Strive to Thrive)

The original version

By a Hong Kong singer, Eason Chan

By a westerner, 紅老外 (he did a nice job!)

Hokkien lyrics(Source)

一時失志毋免怨嘆 一時落魄毋免膽寒
那通失去希望 每日醉茫茫 無魂有體親像稻草人
人生可比是海上的波浪 有時起 有時落
好運 歹運 總嘛要照起工來行
三分天註定 七分靠打拚 愛拚才會贏
Mandarian translation(Source)

English translation

Never complain about failures, or be discouraged by adversity
How can you lose your faith and be drunk all day, as if an absent-minded strawman?
Life is like wave in the sea, sometimes it is up, and sometimes it is down
No matter you are getting good luck or bad luck, you have to follow the rules
Success is thirty percent destiny and seventy percent diligence
Strive to thrive!


"Little Fujian" in Hong Kong

Chung Yeung Street in North Point

North Point was once the “Little Shanghai” in Hong Kong, but it was called “Little Fujian” when the Hokkien-Indonesian sugar trader “Kwok Chun-yeung” invested in North Point to carry out reclamation projects and built many residential buildings in the area. Driven by the success of the previous generation in South-east Asia region, many Hokkiens moved to Hong Kong to pursue a better living. Eventually they gathered around Chun Yeung Street in North Point, which named after the Hokkien pioneer trader.

Chun Yeung Street is a famous wet market in Hong Kong for its attractive price and the freshness of its goods. At Chun Yeung Street, stall owners actually bargain with their customers in Hokkien, and amongst the stall owners, they also communicate in Hokkien. Being able to speak Hokkien seems to be a requirement for stall owners. There are stalls and restaurant selling traditional Hokkien cuisines and ingredients that are not easily seen in other markets in Hong Kong.

Interview with 3 generations of Hokkien speakers in Hong Kong


In order to understand the usage of Hokkien in Hong Kong context, we have interviewed three members of a Hokkien family, Grandma, Mrs. Chan and Sonic, who have settled in Hong Kong for 32 years, as well as 2 two post-80s guys, Joe and Ah Fat, from Hokkien families. By comparing their responses in the interview, we can investigate the views and options of Hokkien community in language usage in Hong Kong.

Sonic(left), Grandma (middle), Mandy (right) 

Background information:

Ah Fat
Mrs. Chan
Partner of tutorial center
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
No. of years staying in HK
12 years
(moved to HK in 10)
Since born
Since born
Educational level
No schooling
Secondary School
Secondary School
Mother tongue [1]
H, M
Other languages acquired [1]
C, E, M
E, M

[1] Index: H-Hokkien, M-Mandarin, C-Cantonese, E-English, S-Spanish


Now,let’s look at the results on  language choice in different domains.

"I speak Hokkien to Hokkien people, Cantonese to Canton people in Hong Kong"

For Grandma, the first generation of Hokkien immigrants to Hong Kong, she still adopts her traditional dialect in her daily speech. As she is living in a Hokkien community, which is in Hung Hom, many of her neighborhoods are able to speak Hokkien. Therefore, she has no problem to keep up her dialect every day in Hong Kong.

"Nobody speaks Hokkien in my neighborhood, neither do my children speak it."
-Mrs. Chan

The situation is slightly different when it comes to the second generation. Mrs. Chan moved to Hong Kong from Fujian 25 years ago. Isolated from the Hokkien-speaking community, she starts to learn Cantonese and use it in her daily life more than the dialect as she has to integrate with the local, the Cantonese speakers. Except to her mother-in-law, husband, relatives and 2 elder daughters, she almost has no chances to speak her local tongue.

Photo after interview: (Right) Mandy, (Center) Joe, (Left) Yuffie

The results of the 3rd generation are not surprised. No matter where they were born and raised, once they have settled in Hong Kong, Cantonese would be the only language choice for them in many occasions. Meanwhile, they also acquire to speak English and Mandarin as they receive schooling in Hong Kong. As the educational level of the post-80s gets higher in this day and age, Sonic, one of the interviewees, even study one more language - Spanish as her major in the university. It shows that the third generation of Hokkien community is transforming into more globalized in respect of language choices.


History of Hokkien language

History of Hokkien language

Hokkien is a dialect belongs to the Minnan Chinese, one of the eight major Chinese Han languages. Throughout the years, academics have posed different views towards the origins of this dialect. It has been told that Hokkien was originated from Baiyueyu (百越語) , Gushangyu (古商語)Official language in Tang dynasty (唐朝官話) and Hok lok (河洛語). Nevertheless, it is commonly seen as a hybrid of Quanzhou dialect(泉州語) and Zhangzhou dialect(漳州語).

Book about the origin of Quanzhou Dialect
During the End of Han Dynasty, also called the Three Kingdoms Period, there was a constant warfare taking place in Central Plain(中原) of China. The refugees of Northern China swarmed to Fujian after the Disaster of Yongjia(永嘉之禍). Due to a large number of Han people migrated in the Fujian regions, they brought the old Han accent there. As a result, the language of the indigenous tribe Baiyue in Fujian was varied and gradually evolved into the Quanzhou dialect(泉州語), the earliest form of Minnian dialect. However, some scholar suggested that the language was extinct long before (around 700 years) the military force came. So, there might not be any connection between the Baiyueyu and the ancient Minnan . [1]

Later in Tang dynasty, Chen Zheng (陳政) and his son Chen Yuanguang (陳元光) led a military expedition to pacify the rebellion in Fujian. During their settlement in Zhangzhou, they introduced the Middle Chinese phonology of northern China during the 7th century into the region. Then in the 10th century, Wang Chao(王潮) and his brother led a military expedition to pacify the Huang Chao rebellion. They brought the commonly spoken Middle Chinese phonology of Northern China into Zhangzhou. The two waves of migrations brought the Northern Chinese language into the Fujian region. Hence, it gradually evolved the language into Zhangzhou dialect(漳州語).
Thank for the establishment of Xiamen as the main port of trading in southeastern China, a common language had to be spoken between businessmen and peasants for easy trading. Therefore, the combination of these two dialects - Quanzhou dialect and Zhangzhou dialect were mixed rapidly and gradually it became the Amoy or Xiamen dialect.

Since all these dialects are widely spoken in Min regions, and the Hakka people called Minnan people as “hok-lo” in the past, for this reason, the dialect spoken by people of Minnan regions is named as Hokkien.

[1] 吳坤明〈臺灣閩南語之淵源與正名〉,《臺灣學研究第五期》(2008年6月) http://www.ntl.edu.tw/public/Attachment/910289373634.pdf