‘Grimms’ receives treatment in Hoklo – Taipei Times

The team behind the first Hoklo-German “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” discuss their passion for the project and the importance of infusing text with Hoklo characteristics

  • By Han Cheung / Journalist

Have you heard of the Grimm Brothers story called “Sweet Potato and Shell Ginger?”

Try to read these words aloud in Hoklo (commonly called Taiwanese), and you will get “Han-ji and Gueh-tao” – approximations of “Hansel and Gretel”.

This kind of linguistic creativity and use of local elements stands out in the first Hoklo translation of the iconic collection of fairy tales, released last month by a team from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU). The book contains five stories, each with links to voice recordings.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

While the creators tried to keep the content as close as possible to the German original, they also wanted to infuse a Taiwanese touch into the language to accommodate the growing idea of ​​“glocalization”. Translator Khu Ui-him (邱偉欣) says that the current Chinese translation of “Hansel and Gretel” is “Candy House” (糖果屋), which neither stays true to the original nor promotes local culture.

“We want to show through the book that not only can Hoklo express the intricacies of different languages ​​around the world, but it can also be used in unique ways that cannot be achieved in Mandarin or others. languages, “said project manager Tan Le-kun () said. “We hope that this can also contribute to the transmission of Taiwanese culture to the world. “

With financial support from the Rotary Club of Taipei, Tan plans to publish 11 more translated story books. Next up will be the Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

“When I was trying to teach my child to read Hoklo, I had a hard time finding resources,” says Tan. “If we really want to promote the teaching of local languages, we also need to develop a large body of reading.


Tan, an assistant professor in the Taiwanese Literature Department at NCKU, first drafted the project proposal in 2017, but found no publisher willing to take it up.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

Tan says Taiwan’s rich local languages ​​are often overlooked when promoting the nation’s culture to the world. It doesn’t help that due to past government policy, these languages ​​are still stigmatized as vulgar, low-class, and mostly used to insult people.

“Although this stereotype has disappeared to the surface, it is not so easy to erase such deep brainwashing,” she said.

Anne of Green Gables translator Ng Tsiau-sui (黃昭瑞) also shares Tan’s sentiment and passion. As a high school English teacher, she has noticed that her students see English as a legitimate language, but finds it “strange” that she speaks Hoklo to her colleagues and to her child. She hopes the translations can help students see Hoklo as just as viable a language as English.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

The project stalled until the Taipei Tianmu Rotary Club’s Beautiful Formosa (美 哉 福爾摩沙) fund stepped in.

“We want young people to understand and love Taiwan,” said Jake Chu (褚繼堯), then president of Beautiful Formosa. “We wanted to promote Taiwanese literature, so we went to Tainan [to meet Tan] and we immediately hooked.

Tan recruited Khu, a doctoral student in the department, as a translator of the Brothers Grimm book. Khu obtained a doctorate in developmental biology from the University of Cologne, but became heavily involved in promoting Hoklo literature after returning to Taiwan and eventually changed fields.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

“The field of biology in Taiwan will be fine without me,” he says. “But the field of Taiwanese languages ​​and culture really needs more help. I saw the project as a chance to try to use Hoklo to interpret other cultures. It was quite a challenge, but it can help the language to grow richer.

Determined to make the content as authentic as possible, Khu chose to translate from the 19th century edition, only to realize that the German used was different from what he had learned. He still moved forward and was able to deliver after much research


Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

Hoklo language teacher Lim Guah-ngoo (林月娥) not only served as a proofreader, but also enjoyed thinking about local elements to add to the translation.

“If you don’t localize the stories, they only provide a shallow global perspective,” she says. “It’s like duckweed floating on water without roots. We insist on presenting the stories authentically but with a local voice, so that young readers have a solid base on both sides. Only then will they be able to see the world with an open mind.

Lim and his fellow proofreader Peh Le-hun (白麗芬) were also tasked with normalizing the Hoklo text into a mixture of Chinese characters and Romanization. The team thinks this is the best way to present the language, but it was a task to ensure consistency as there is no industry standard.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

Lim says that since many Hoklo words do not have Mandarin equivalents, it is difficult to write them completely in Chinese characters. Some have invented new characters to represent these words, but they are often unintelligible or confusing to readers. Lim and Tan prefer to only use easily recognizable characters that have clear Mandarin equivalents and fill in the rest with the Latin alphabet. Characters that have different meanings in Mandarin and Hoklo are also eliminated to avoid confusion.

“One of our goals is to push for the standardization of this format, as there is no clear consensus on when to use Chinese characters and when to use romanization,” says Tan.

No matter how fluent his Hoklo is, Tan gladly welcomes anyone with a passion for the language to help him out. Ng isn’t completely confident in her abilities, for example, but she’s happy that there is a strong proofreading team to back her up.

Photo courtesy of Tan Le-kun

“It’s something I do every day anyway,” she says. “I translate English stories into Hoklo and read them to my child. We just send it to the page.

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