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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Teochew 8 tones

In Mandarin, we are used to pronounce Chinese words in only 4 tones. We are taught that way since early childhood days and having that reinforced in primary and secondary school education.

Hence, before I attended the course on "Teochew Dialect: the intermediate course" in 2008, I was not able to pronounce and distinguish the 8 tones in Teochew dialect accurately even though I am a Teochew by birth and speak Teochew at home most of the time during my childhood and adolescence years.


Most of my classmates were like me.  We are so used to the 4 tones intonation in our daily practice in Mandarin. We had never imaged that Chinese words can be pronounced in any other ways except the 4 tones!

Anything challenging the 4 tones, was just not acceptable ...

The four tones rhythm or rhyming method in Mandarin is very much like a "printed" mode set in our mind since our childhood days. It is like a fixed framework preset in our brain and it is our way of "reasoning" or interpretation in anything related to pronunciation within the Chinese Characters world.

It is rather hard to unlearn something so rooted in our brain and a habit we cultivated since early age.

If I have to keep the 4 tones learning in Mandarin which is a necessity, I cannot unlearn it. It is nothing wrong in using 4 tones intonation in our pronunciation in Mandarin.  I just have to convince myself that what I know is not the only way of pronunciation words in Chinese.

I just have to learn the 8 tones in Teochew pronunciation parallel to it...

It is very much like accepting a neighbour sharing a common wall with you, after you are used to the ideas of stayed in a bungalow and own the four walls over decades.

How shocking would that be, if you suddenly discovered that your are actually living in a  semi-detached house, or a unit in a row of terrace housing estate, with neighbour(s) so close to you and may hear their TV programmes or conversation occasionally!

Since I cannot unlearn the 4 tones in Mandarin, I have to be able to push that aside when I need to add new ways of pronouncing words in 8 tones if I want to refine or perfect my Teochew learning.

I am so called  "100% pure Teochew", the way our parents told us.

Both my Dad and Mum were from two of the "Eight district in Teo Chew" (ie., 潮州八邑 Chao Zhou Ba Yi ), which make me take for granted that nothing in Teochew could be an alien task for me!)

Even though I am a second generation Singapore born Teochew, with both parents and grandmum at home speaking dialect all the time, I find myself an average or poor learner in class.

After attending and completed the course at  Chao Zhou Ba Yi Hui Guan (潮州八邑会馆) , I managed to distinguish the 8 tones with some struggle and many hours of hard works.

Well, if you read on and see the details of the 8 tones pronunciation, you may understand what I mean.


Here is some examples of Teochew 8 tones:

潮州话声调 Teochew 8 tones

低抵帝滴 di1 di2 di3 dih4
池弟地碟 di5 di6 di7 dih8

分粉奋忽 hung1 hung2 hung3 hug4
云混份佛 hung5 hung6 hung7 hug8


If you like to learn how to pronounce Teochew accurately, you may look it up using:

潮州话字典 Teochew dictionary


If you like to understand more about Teochew language & culture, explore the following links:


Chaoshan Dialect Classification
Teochew Dialect


For Teochew local websites, visit:


潮州话的电视台 Teochew Language TV



Sources of information:


This article was originally published on 22 March 2009. 2nd revision is on 15 Feb 2015.


Hope you find my "struggle" in my learning journey interesting!

Keep learning, and your journey may have a different story, more interest, more inspiring and more rewarding!



Written and re-compiled by

Dexterine Ho Soo Miang
8.35 pm, 15 Feb 2015, Singapore

Saturday, February 14, 2015

When you set your aim too high ...

You can't climb up to the second floor without a ladder.

When you set your aim too high and don't fulfill it, then your enthusiasm turns to bitterness.

Try for a goal that's reasonable, and then gradually raise it.

That's the only way to get to the top.

-- Emil Zatopek (1922- 2000) Czech Middle Distance Runner