It was a Saturday morning and I was at the hawker center with my friend and her teenage son. We were just casually chatting and enjoying our breakfast when her son suddenly asked her an interesting question.
Asked why the uncles were speaking like chickens and ducks
He wondered why the uncles seated at the hawker center were making weird noises when they were talking and he couldn’t understand what they were saying.
My friend laughed and explained to her son that the uncles were actually speaking in their own dialect which is called Hokkien.
She explained that the Hokkien dialect is a language which has been spoken in parts of China, Taiwan, Singapore and several other countries for centuries.
It is also the dialect which is most commonly spoken by many of the older generation in Singapore.
My friend’s son was quite intrigued by this and wanted to learn more. He asked us if we could teach him how to speak Hokkien.
My friend and I both smiled and told him that we could teach him if he really wanted to learn and asked if he had any friends who knew how to speak like that.
He told us that most of his classmates only spoke English and were all not that good with their Mandarin and so probably would not know their dialects.
Realised nowadays all the younger generation all cannot speak their dialects
We then looked around the hawker center and realised that all the other younger people in the area were either not speaking Hokkien with the elderly and speaking with broken Mandarin.
This made us quite sad because it seemed like the younger generation had all knew nothing about their dialects. We realised that if the younger generation did not take the effort to learn and preserve their dialects, then these languages would soon be lost forever.
My friend and I then decided to do something about this. We started teaching her son and encouraged him to speak the language with his grandparents and other older relatives.
We hoped that by teaching him how to speak Hokkien, there would be at least one more person from the younger generation able to preserve the language and pass it on to future generations.
Unfortunately, our efforts were in vain. He found it too difficult to learn and he was also too busy with other priorities in his own life and did not have the time or the inclination to learn something that society views not as important.