Book: Introduction to Hakka, James M. Drought

I have looked forward to reading this for some time. Now I have it before me, I can review it for you.


There are several good things about Drought’s Introduction to Hakka (1926) though, firstly it is a text that doesn’t shy away from using Chinese characters for colloquially spoken words.

A good set of sound drills enable the reader to differentiate the tones in syllable in isolation and in compound words.

Lessons introduce new Chinese characters, followed by  sentences or dialogues. There are english translation of each dialogue. The lesson is rounded off by discussing the use of the points of grammar and syntax that crop up.

A small look up grammar serves as a handy reference.

A character and meaning list is provided at the back.

It uses a romanisation that a major dictionary utilises – Rey’s Dictionnairre Chinoise – Français, Dialect Hac-Ka (1901, 1926) which is an odd one to choose since the author writes in English whilst the Dictionnairre is in French. But, another later Catholic publication, Hakka for Beginners (1948, 1952), also employs the same romanisation over two decades later, and so does Marsecano’s English Hakka Dictionary  (1958). Compare this to Bernhard Mercer’s Hakka Chinese Lessons (1930) which is romanised similar to the work in MacIver’s A Chinese English dictionary, Hakka Dialect (1905, expanded and reordered by MacKenzie 1926), these being Anglican and Baptist works. Perhaps there seems to be a rivalry between these churches.

As an aside, the Dutch language work Leerboek voor het Praktisch Gebruik van het Hakka-Dialect 客話指南 uses a romanisation that its author Br. Canisius van de Ven created, and German speaking Basel Mission works used a system like the Lepsius one.

Drought peppers lessons with his religious themes, including admonitions against consorting with pagans and superstitions, whilst managing to create a manifesto (p. 231-238) for the prohibition of traditional Chinese folk religious practices and festival observations which forms a core part of Hakka culture and custom. Thus pagan as the author puts it pejoratively is all the non-Christian culture he finds detestable. Perhaps then, Drought is educating Catholic teachers and preachers in how to tell their followers how to be true to their own faith. This leads the reader to a place where he may or not be sympathetic to the message given in these lessons.

The language used in Introduction to Hakka purports to be of the Moiyen dialect, but notes in other locales Hakka pronunciation may be different.

The use of 现在 is not colloquial Hakka but comes from the common written language, Chinese.

We find the Catholics had a different system for naming the weeks, and he compares it to the civil and protestant form, but advises the learner to use the civil version instead.

Sunday,Monday, Tuesday etc
Catholic 主日,瞻禮二,瞻禮三
Civil 星期日,星期一,星期二
Protestant 禮拜日,禮拜一, 禮拜三


About daylightstar

Passing on the Hakka language to all comers and eager learners.
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3 Responses to Book: Introduction to Hakka, James M. Drought

  1. Pingback: References and Bibliography | daylightstar

  2. Nathew Lai says:

    Hi! I am very interested in this book, may I know where do you get the book? Thank you!

  3. daylightstar says:

    Nathan, Unfortunately, the book is out of print. Your best bet is to find it via Interlibrary Loans but depending on your local or student library, there may be a charge for the service.

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