It's the second day of Chinese New Year, and I'm still lazing around in my old home back in JB (Johor Bahru, for all you non-Malaysians). And I caught myself using the phrase “han-na” in reply to something my mother was saying. I'm not too sure if this is standard Penang Hokkien usage or just us, but “han-na” is used as a response when you are obliged to do something.

Specifically, it will come out when you are reminded to do something in the future. For example, if your mother says something along the lines of: remember to ask your sister to print the itinerary, you can reply with “han-na” as an indication that, yes, you will ask your sister to do that.

You could always use the swiss army knife of replies: “orh”, but “orh” can sometimes be too general. The use of “han-na” implies that you've not only heard the request but are also obliged to carry out said request.

The intonation of “han-na” is also important. A neutral sounding “han-na” is appropriate for all circumstances, where the “na” is subdued. But if the exact same request is repeated multiple times, you can use an exaggerated “han-na”, by dragging out the last syllable, to express your exasperation, becoming “han-naaa”.

“Han-na” can be used in another context to mean “yes, of course”. It is usually invoked when you someone asks you a painfully obvious question. For example, if someone asks you, “You mean there are 7 colours in the rainbow?”, you can reply ”Han-na!” with the tone of “na” going up. If this description is as clear as mud, maybe listen to the audio 👇.







Hear the Penang Hokkien audio version:


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