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Wednesday June 17, 2009
By TAN SIN CHOW
WHEN Dutchman Luc de Gijzel overheard a shopowner saying “Ang mor gao lai liao (Caucasian coming), his immediate response was “Lu bor leh mao (You are being impolite).
“But of course, I said it in jest. The shopowner was obviously taken aback knowing that I actually understood what he meant. Both of us immediately broke into laughter,” said the 39-year-old de Gijzel who is the author of Penang Hokkien Pocket dictionary.
The dictionary, which de Gijzel spent one-and-a-half years to compile, comprises more than 4,000 Hokkien words that come with English definitions.
He attributed the success in releasing the dictionary to his teacher Lee Siew Har, who helped him with the compilation of the dialect, and a few Penangites who vetted through the dictionary before its release.
A factory manager by profession, de Gijzel moved to Penang five years ago with his wife Angelique de Haas, 36, from the Hague in Holland.
His two children Beau, three, and Hein, eight months, were born here.
His romance with the dialect started four years ago when he attended basic Hokkien lessons at Penang YMCA on Macalister Road.
The two-hour lesson was conducted once a week.
“The urge to learn is innate in all human beings.
“As I was making progress with the classic dialect, I was eager to learn more. However, what frustrated me was that I could not find additional reading materials, both in books or even on the Internet. It was then the idea crept in. I decided to come out with a guide book (dictionary) of my own,” he said when launching his dictionary at Alpha Utara Gallery on Friday.
De Gijzel took pride in the fact that the dictionary was not only meant for foreigners, but also for Penangites including tourists as well.
He felt that the dictionary would definitely come in handy for locals as the Hokkien dialect in Penang has evolved and is no longer spoken in its original form.
He said the dialect is now peppered with a little bit of Bahasa Malaysia and English.
“To me, the classic dialect is charming. Though it remains the undisputed lingua franca of most Penangites, the dialect has been peppered with other languages ever since the early Chinese settlers arrived here. Even the locals could not get certain Hokkien words right,” he said.
De Gijzel said that he seldom spoke in Hokkien as each time he conversed in the dialect, the local people would answer him in English.
“The most common words I use in Hokkien is Kamsiah (Thank you). That is how I reply the hawkers at Pulau Tikus market each time I order something,” he said.
Penang Heritage Trust president Dr Choong Sim Poey said it was a proud achievement for a foreigner to release a dictionary in Hokkien which is synonymous with Penang.
“It is astonishing that I could even find Hokkien phrases and swear words from the dictionary!” he said.
The RM22 dictionary is published by Penang-based Areca Books. It is available at local bookshops.
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