Southern Min dialect
Phrasebooks > Teochew phrasebook

Teochew (潮汕話/潮汕话 Diê5 suan37 or 潮州話/潮州话 Diê5 ziu17), also Romanized as Chiuchow, is the main language of the Chaoshan region in Eastern Guangdong, around the cities of Shantou, Chaozhou and Jieyang. It is also fairly common in Hong Kong and among overseas Chinese, especially in Southeast Asia, with Bangkok and Johor Bahru being examples of Southeast Asian cities where Teochew speakers form the majority among the ethnic Chinese community.

Each of the three main Teochew-speaking cities in China, as well as each overseas region where it is spoken, has its own slightly different variant, though they are similar enough not to hinder mutual comprehension; the prestige dialect is that of Chaozhou, though the Shantou dialect is more commonly heard due to the city's economic dominance. The overseas variants are influenced by other local languages; the Teochew spoken in Singapore and Malaysia has loan words from Malay and Hokkien, while the Teochew spoken in Thailand has loan words from Thai.

All Chinese languages, in general, use the same set of characters in reading and writing in formal settings, based on standard Mandarin. This means that a Teochew speaker and a Mandarin speaker cannot talk to each other, but either can generally read what the other writes. However, when Teochew is written in a more colloquial form, there are significant differences with standard Mandarin, thus necessitating the use of some extra characters not commonly used in Mandarin, and meaning that a Mandarin speaker will not be able to understand everything. Use the Chinese phrasebook for reading most writing in Teochew-speaking areas.

Teochew is closely related to Minnan Hua and Hainanese, but only partly mutually intelligible with Minnan Hua and mutually unintelligible with Hainanese. Teochew is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin or Cantonese, but it is common for Teochew speakers to also know one or both of those. Foreigners in the region usually choose to learn Mandarin rather than Teochew because it is much more widely used.

Pronunciation guideEdit

Like other dialects of Chinese, Teochew is written using Chinese characters but employs its own unique pronunciation. Traditional Chinese characters are used in some overseas Teochew communities, while simplified characters are used in mainland China. Where differences exist, in this guide, we write the traditional Chinese characters before the slash and simplified Chinese character after it.

Peng'im, which was developed by the Guangdong provincial government in 1960, is generally the most common system for Romanizing Teochew, and will be used in this guide. See Wikipedia for details if needed. However, as most native speakers do not know how to read Romanized Teochew, stick to Chinese characters for written communication.

VowelsEdit

The letters a, i and u are pronounced as in Spanish, Italian and German.

Vowels of Peng'im
Letter IPA English example Notes
a a father
e ɯ no equivalent in English, like Estonian õ or Korean eu
ê ɛ hen
i i see
o ɔ law
u u goose

Vowels can also be nasalized in Teochew. In Peng'im, this is represented by an n at the end of the syllable after the vowel.

Vowel combinationsEdit

Vowel combinations of Peng'im
Letter IPA English example Notes
ai ai my pinyin 'ai'
ao au cow pinyin 'ao'
ia ia -
-
io -
iu iu -
oi ɔi -
ou ou - pinyin 'ou'
ua ua - pinyin 'wa'
way pinyin 'wei'
ui ui -
iou iou -
uai uai why pinyin 'wai'

ConsonantsEdit

While Mandarin only distinguishes between aspirated and unaspirated (unvoiced) consonants, and English only distinguishes between voiced and unvoiced consonants meaning-wise, Teochew makes a distinction in both cases. This means that aspirated unvoiced (p, t, k, c), unaspirated unvoiced (b, d, g, z), and unaspirated voiced (bh, gh, r) are all separate phonemic consonants in Teochew. Pronouncing everything accurately is therefore going to be a challenge for native English or Mandarin speakers. However, unlike in Mandarin, there is no "tongue rolling" (pinyin zh, ch, sh, r) initial consonant.

Initial consonanats of Peng'im
Letter IPA English example Notes
bh b ban English 'b'
b p span pinyin 'b'
p pan pinyin 'p'
r dz/ʑ jam English 'j'
z ts/tɕ - pinyin 'z' or 'j'
c tsʰ/tɕʰ cats pinyin 'c' or 'q'
s s/ɕ sun pinyin 's' or 'x'
gh g get English hard 'g'
g k skin pinyin 'g'
k kin pinyin 'k'
d t Stan pinyin 'd'
t tan pinyin 't'
h h hat English 'h'
m m map English 'm'
n n net English 'n'
l l line English 'l'
ng ŋ sing English 'ng'

Teochew retains some final consonants of Middle Chinese that Mandarin has lost, such as b, g, and m. On the other hand, Teochew has lost the n final consonant that Mandarin has retained. The final m and ng are pronounced as in English, but b and g are different. They are similar to English p and k but unreleased. This means that the mouth moves into the position of making the consonant, but no burst of air is released.

Final consonanats of Peng'im
Letter IPA English example Notes
b p span pinyin 'b'
g k skin pinyin 'g'
m m map English 'm'
ng ŋ sing English 'ng'

Furthermore, an h at the end of a syllable in Peng'im represents a glottal stop (ʔ); this is the sound in the middle of the English word 'uh-oh'.

TonesEdit

Teochew is a tonal language, meaning that the tone must be correct in order to convey the correct meaning. Tone sandhi is rather complex in Teochew, which makes it a little harder to learn than Mandarin. In general, tone sandhi occurs on all syllables of a word other than the final syllable.

Teochew has 8 different tones, denoted with a superscript number after the syllable in Peng'im. Tone sandhi is rather complex in Teochew, making it harder to learn than Mandarin. In general, tone sandhi occurs on all syllables other than the final syllable of a word.

Tones of Teochew
Number Name Pitch Description After tone sandhi
1 yin level (陰平/阴平) 33 high 1
2 yin rising (陰上/阴上) 52 falling 6
3 yin departing (陰去/阴去) 213 low falling 2 or 5
4 yin entering (陰入/阴入) 2 mid stopped 8
5 yang level (陽平/阳平) 5 rising 7
6 yang rising (陽上/阳上) 35 falling 9
7 yang departing (陽去/阳去) 1 mid 9
8 yang entering (陽入/阳入) 4 high stopped 4

Tone 9 as seen in the table occurs only after tone sandhi, and is described as a high falling tone.

Phrase listEdit

BasicsEdit

To be or not to be?

Teochew, as in Mandarin, does not have words for "yes" and "no" as such; instead, questions are typically answered by repeating the verb. Common ones include:

To be or not to be
是 si6, 唔是 m6-si6
To have or not have / there is or is not
有 u6, 無/无 bho5
To be right or wrong
着/著 diêh8, 唔着/唔著 m6-diêh8
Hello.
汝好。 le2 ho2.
How are you?
汝好無?/汝好无? le2 ho2 bho5?
Not bad
𠁞孬/𠀾孬 bhoi6 mo2
Fine, thank you.
好,㩼謝。/好,㩼谢。 ho2, zoi7 sia7.
What is your name?
汝叫乜名? le2 giê3 mih4 mian5?
My name is ______ .
我個名是 ______。/我个名是 ______。 ua2 gai7 mian5 si6 ______ .
Nice to meet you.
. ()
Please.
請。/请。 cian2.
Thank you.
㩼謝。/㩼谢。 zoi7 sia7.
You're welcome.
免客氣。/免客气。 miang2 kêh4 ki3.
Excuse me. (getting attention)
孬意思。 mo2 i3 se3.
Excuse me. (begging pardon)
. ( )
I'm sorry.
對唔住。/对唔住。 dui3 m6 zu6.
Goodbye
再见。/再見。 zai3 giang3.
Goodbye (informal)
. ( )
I can't speak Teochew.
我𠁞呾潮汕話。/我𠀾呾潮汕话。 ua2 bhoi6 dan3 diê5 suan17.
Do you speak English?
請問汝會呾英文𠁞?/请问汝会呾英文𠀾? cian2 mung7 le2 oi6 dan3 êng1 bhung5 bhoi6?
Is there someone here who speaks English?
請問有人會呾英文無?/请问有人会呾英文无? cian2 mung7 u6 nang5 oi6 dan3 êng1 bhung5 bho5?
Help!
救命! giu3 mian7!
Look out!
! ( !)
Good morning.
. ( )
Good evening.
. ( )
Good night.
. ( )
Good night (to sleep)
. ( )
I don't understand.
我𠁞聽。/我𠀾听。 ua2 bhoi6 tian1
Where is the toilet?
廁所在底塊?/厕所在底块? 3 so2 do6 di7 go3?

ProblemsEdit

Leave me alone.
. ( .)
Don't touch me!
! ( !)
I'll call the police.
. ( .)
Police!
警察! gêng6 cag4!
Stop! Thief!
! ! ( ! !)
I need your help.
. ( .)
It's an emergency.
. ( .)
I'm lost.
. ( .)
I lost my bag.
. ( .)
I lost my wallet.
. ( .)
I'm sick.
. ( .)
I've been injured.
. ( .)
I need a doctor.
. ( .)
Can I use your phone?
? ( ?)

NumbersEdit

Numbers in Teochew follow the same system as other varieties of Chinese.

0
kang3
1
zêg8 / ig4

Note: ig4 is used in the ones and tens place (except for the number 1 itself) and in ordinal numbers, whereas zêg8 is used for multiples of numbers 100 and greater, as well as before counter words.

2
兩/两 no6 / 二 ri6

Note: 二 ri6 is used in the ones and tens place (except for the number 2 itself) and in ordinal numbers, whereas 兩/两 no6 is used for multiples of numbers 100 and greater, as well as before counter words.

3
san1
4
si3
5
ngou6
6
lag8
7
cig4
8
boih4
9
gao2
10
zab8
11
十一 zab8 ig4
12
十二 zab8 ri6
13
十三 zab8 san1
14
十四 zab8 si3
15
十五 zab8 ngou6
16
十六 zab8 lag8
17
十七 zab8 cig4
18
十八 zab8 boih4
19
十九 zab8 gao2
20
二十 ri6 zab8
21
二十一 ri6 zab8 ig4
22
二十二 ri6 zab8 ri6
23
二十三 ri6 zab8 san1
30
三十 san1 zab8
40
四十 si3 zab8
50
五十 ngou6 zab8
60
六十 lag8 zab8
70
七十 cig4 zab8
80
八十 boih4 zab8
90
九十 gao2 zab8
100
一百 zêg8 bêh4
200
兩百/两百 no6 bêh4
300
三百 san1 bêh4
1,000
一千 zêg8 coin1
2,000
兩千/两千 no6 coin1

Like Mandarin, Teochew groups numbers starting from 10,000 into units of four digits starting with 萬/万 bhuêng7. "One million" would therefore be "one hundred ten-thousands" (一百萬/一百万) and "one billion" would be "ten hundred-millions" (十億/十亿).

10,000
一萬/一万 zêg8 bhuêng7
20,000
兩萬/两万 no6 bhuêng7
100,000
十萬/十万 zab8 bhuêng7
1,000,000
一百萬/一百万 zêg8 bêh4 bhuêng7
10,000,000
一千萬/一千万 zêg8 coin1 bhuêng7
100,000,000
一億/一亿 zêg8 êg8
1,000,000,000
十億/十亿 zab8 êg8
1,000,000,000,000
一兆 zêg8 diou6
number _____ (train, bus, etc.)
_____號/_____号 _____ ho7
half
buan3
less
ziê2
more
zoi7

TimeEdit

now
只陣/只阵 zi2 zung5
later
( kin kia )
before
( )
morning
眠起 mung5 ki2 / 猛早 mên2 za2
noon
日晝/日昼 rig8 dao3
afternoon
下旰 ê7 gua3
evening
暝昏 mên5 hung1
night
暝旰 mên5 gua3 / 暝暗 mên5 am3
midnight
半暝 buan3 mên5

Clock timeEdit

1:00
一点/一點 zêg8 diam2
2:00
两点/兩點 no6 diam2
2:30
两点半/兩點半 no6 diam2 buan3 / 两点三十分/兩點三十分 no6 diam2 san1 zab8 hung1
3:00
三点/三點 san1 diam2

DurationEdit

_____ minute(s)
_____ 分鐘/_____ 分钟 _____ hung1 zêng1
_____ hour(s)
_____ 點鐘/_____ 点钟 _____ diam2 zêng1
_____ day(s)
_____ 日 _____ rig8
_____ week(s)
_____ 禮拜/_____ 礼拜 _____ loi2 bai3
_____ month(s)
_____ 個月/ _____ 个月 _____ gai5 ghuêh8
_____ year(s)
_____ 年 _____ ni5

DaysEdit

today
今日 gim1 rig8 / 囝日 gian2 rig8
yesterday
昨日 za1 rig8
tomorrow
明起 muan3 ki2 / 明日 muan3 rig8
this week
只個禮拜/只个礼拜 zi2 gai5 loi2 bai3
last week
頂個禮拜/顶个礼拜 dêng2 gai5 loi2 bai3
next week
後個禮拜/后个礼拜 ao6 gai5 loi2 bai3
Sunday
禮拜/礼拜 loi2 bai3
Monday
拜一 bai3 ig4
Tuesday
拜二 bai3 ri6
Wednesday
拜三 bai3 san1
Thursday
拜四 bai3 si3
Friday
拜五 bai3 ngou6
Saturday
拜六 bai3 lag8

MonthsEdit

January
一月 ig4 ghuêh8
February
二月 ri6 ghuêh8
March
三月 san1 ghuêh8
April
四月 si3 ghuêh8
May
五月 ngou6 ghuêh8
June
六月 lag8 ghuêh8
July
七月 cig4 ghuêh8
August
八月 boih4 ghuêh8
September
九月 gao2 ghuêh8
October
十月 zab8 ghuêh8
November
十一月 zab8 ig4 ghuêh8
December
十二月 zab8 ri6 ghuêh8

Writing time and dateEdit

ColorsEdit

black
烏色/乌色 ou1 sêg4
white
白色 bêh8 sêg4
gray
灰色 huê1 sêg4
red
紅色/红色 ang5 sêg4
blue
藍色/蓝色 nam5 sêg4
yellow
黃色/黄色 ng5 sêg4
green
青色 cên1 sêg4
orange
柑色 gan1 sêg4
purple
紫色 zi2 sêg4
brown
赤色 ciah4 sêg4

TransportationEdit

Bus and trainEdit

How much is a ticket to _____?
( )
One ticket to _____, please.
( )
Where does this train/bus go?
( )
Where is the train/bus to _____?
( )
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
( )
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
( )
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
( )

DirectionsEdit

走 or 行

While the character 走 (zao2) means "to walk" in modern Standard Mandarin, Teochew retains the Classical Chinese meaning of the character, in which it means "to run" (a meaning that is also retained in other southern dialects and Japanese). Instead, the character 行 (gian5) is used to mean "to walk" in Teochew.

How do I get to _____ ?
請問汝做呢去_____啊?/请问汝做呢去_____啊? cian2 mung7 le2 zo3 ni5 ke3 _____ a7?
...the train station?
( )
...the bus station?
( )
...the airport?
( )
...downtown?
( )
...the youth hostel?
( )
...the _____ hotel?
( )
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
( )
Where are there a lot of _____?
底塊有好㩼_____啊?/底块有好㩼_____啊? di7 go3 u6 hoh4 zoi7 _____ a7?
...hotels?
( )
...restaurants?
( )
...bars?
( )
...sites to see?
( )
Can you show me on the map?
( )
street
( )
Turn left.
斡去倒手爿 uêg4 ke3 do3 ciu2 boin5
Turn right.
斡去正手爿 uêg4 ke3 zian3 ciu2 boin5
left
do3
right
zian3
in front of the _____
_____頭前 / _____头前 tao5 zoin5
behind the _____
_____後爿 / _____后爿 ao6 boin5
straight ahead
直直去 dig8 dig8 ke3
inside
內爿/内爿 lai6 boin5
outside
口爿 kao2 boin5
towards the _____
( )
past the _____
( )
before the _____
( )
Watch for the _____.
( )
intersection
( )
north
( )
south
( )
east
( )
west
( )
uphill
( )
downhill
( )

TaxiEdit

Taxi!
( )
Take me to _____, please.
( )
How much does it cost to get to _____?
( )
Take me there, please.
( )

LodgingEdit

Do you have any rooms available?
( )
How much is a room for one person/two people?
( )
Does the room come with...
( )
...bedsheets?
( )
...a bathroom?
( )
...a telephone?
電話/电话 diêng67
...a TV?
( )
May I see the room first?
( )
Do you have anything quieter?
( )
...bigger?
( kou tua)
...cleaner?
( kou pek )
...cheaper?
( kou phi)
OK, I'll take it.
( )
I will stay for _____ night(s).
( )
Can you suggest another hotel?
( )
Do you have a safe?
( )
...lockers?
( )
Is breakfast/supper included?
( )
What time is breakfast/supper?
( )
Please clean my room.
( )
Can you wake me at _____?
( )
I want to check out.
( )

MoneyEdit

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
( )
Do you accept British pounds?
( )
Do you accept Euros?
( )
Do you accept credit cards?
( )
Can you change money for me?
( )
Where can I get money changed?
( )
Can you change a traveler's check for me?
( )
Where can I get a traveler's check changed?
( )
What is the exchange rate?
( )
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
( )

EatingEdit

One peculiarity of Teochew is that it does not distinguish between eating and drinking. As such, the verb 食 (ziah8) is used to refer to both eating and drinking.

A table for one person/two people, please.
( )
Can I look at the menu, please?
( )
Can I look in the kitchen?
( )
Is there a house specialty?
( )
Is there a local specialty?
( )
I'm a vegetarian.
( )
I don't eat pork.
( )
I don't eat beef.
( )
I only eat kosher food.
( )
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard)
( )
fixed-price meal
( )
a la carte
( )
breakfast
( )
lunch
( )
tea (meal)
( )
supper
( )
I want _____.
我愛_____。/我爱_____。 ua2 ain3 _____.
I want a dish containing _____.
( )
chicken
雞/鸡 goi1
duck
鴨/鸭 ah4
goose
鵝/鹅 gho5
beef
牛肉 ghu5 nêg8
pork
豬肉/猪肉 de1 nêg8
mutton
羊肉 iên5 nêg8
fish
魚/鱼 he5
ham
( )
sausage
( )
cheese
( )
eggs
neng6
salad
( )
vegetables
cai3
(fresh) fruit
( bua )
bread
( )
toast
( )
noodles
麵/面 min7
rice (cooked)
飯/饭 bung7
congee / rice porridge
muê5
beans
dao7
May I have a glass of _____?
( )
May I have a cup of _____?
( )
May I have a bottle of _____?
( )
coffee
( )
tea (drink)
5
juice
( )
(bubbly) water
( )
(still) water
zui2
milk
ni6
beer
( )
red/white wine
( )
May I have some _____?
( )
salt
鹽/盐 iam5
sugar
teng5
soy sauce
豉油 si7 iu5
black pepper
( )
butter
牛油 ghu5 iu5
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
( )
I'm finished.
( )
delicious.
好食 ho2 ziah8
Please clear the plates.
( )
The check, please.
( )

BarsEdit

Do you serve alcohol?
( )
Is there table service?
( )
A beer/two beers, please.
( )
A glass of red/white wine, please.
( )
A pint, please.
( )
A bottle, please.
( )
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please.
( )
whiskey
( )
vodka
( )
rum
( )
water
zui2
club soda
( )
tonic water
( )
orange juice
( )
Coke (soda)
( phi zui )
Do you have any bar snacks?
( )
One more, please.
( cek kai ge)
Another round, please.
( )
When is closing time?
( )
Cheers!
( )

ShoppingEdit

Do you have this in my size?
( )
How much is this?
( cia hok coi lui? )
That's too expensive.
( cia khak kue kui )
Would you take _____?
( )
expensive
貴/贵 gui3
cheap
便 pin1
I can't afford it.
( )
I don't want it.
我莫 ua2 mai3
You're cheating me.
( )
I'm not interested.
(..)
OK, I'll take it.
( ho, wa khiok i)
Can I have a bag?
( )
Do you ship (overseas)?
( )
I need...
( )
...toothpaste.
( )
...a toothbrush.
齒漱 /齿漱 ki2 ciu3
...tampons.
. ( )
...soap.
餅藥/饼药 pian2 iêh8
...shampoo.
( )
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
( )
...cold medicine.
( )
...stomach medicine.
... ( )
...a razor.
( )
...an umbrella.
雨遮 hou6 zia1
...sunblock lotion.
( )
...a postcard.
( )
...postage stamps.
( )
...batteries.
( )
...writing paper.
( )
...a pen.
( )
...English-language books.
( )
...English-language magazines.
( )
...an English-language newspaper.
( )
...an English-English dictionary.
( )

DrivingEdit

I want to rent a car.
( )
Can I get insurance?
( )
stop (on a street sign)
( )
one way
( )
yield
( )
no parking
( )
speed limit
( )
gas (petrol) station
( )
petrol
( )
diesel
( )

AuthorityEdit

I haven't done anything wrong.
( )
It was a misunderstanding.
( )
Where are you taking me?
( )
Am I under arrest?
( )
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
( )
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
( )
I want to talk to a lawyer.
( )
Can I just pay a fine now?
( )



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