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Medan Hokkien

Medan Hokkien is a vibrant and distinct dialect of the Hokkien language, primarily spoken by the Chinese Indonesian community in Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, Indonesia. This dialect is a testament to the region's rich cultural tapestry, reflecting a history of migration, trade, and cultural exchange.


Medan Hokkien's roots can be traced back to the Hokkien-speaking areas of Southern Fujian province in China, particularly the Zhangzhou region. The dialect evolved significantly, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries when trade between the eastern coasts of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula flourished. The influx of Chinese laborers, mainly from Penang, brought the Hokkien dialect, which mingled with the local languages and customs, giving rise to the unique variant we know today as Medan Hokkien.

Medan Hokkien is a means of communication and a carrier of cultural identity for the Chinese Indonesian community. It encapsulates the history of migration, the adaptation to a new homeland, and the resilience of maintaining cultural heritage amidst changing political landscapes. As such, Medan Hokkien is more than just a dialect; it symbolizes cultural persistence and the enduring spirit of a community that has navigated the complexities of identity and belonging.


Medan Hokkien serves as the lingua franca among the Chinese community in Medan. It has spread by the diaspora of Medan Hokkien people to other cities in North Sumatra province and beyond, including Jakarta. It is characterized by its use of the Latin script, influenced by the Indonesian orthography, and lacks tone markings when written. The dialect is predominantly oral, with most speakers using it in daily conversation rather than in written form.

The language is a fascinating blend of traditional Hokkien with heavy influences from Teochew, Deli Malay, and Indonesian, creating a rich linguistic mosaic. This mixture is evident in its vocabulary, which borrows extensively from these languages, reflecting the multicultural environment of Medan and its surroundings. A Hokkien dialect spoken in the Riau province, such as the Selatpanjang city, bears very similar characteristics to Medan Hokkien.

Fun facts

  1. The largest number of speakers can be found in Medan City, Indonesia.
  2. Many loanwords come from Indonesian, English, and Mandarin languages.
  3. Intelligible with Penang Hokkien from Penang Island, Malaysia, and usable to communicate with Hokkien speakers from Singapore, The Philippines, and Taiwan.
  4. To date, there is no standardized written form for Medan Hokkien.
  5. Contemporary Medan Hokkien is spread widely on social media, like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Photo by Halim Kosasi on Unsplash


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