Dialects and Languages in Numbers

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Over 60% of Penang’s 654,828 Chinese population speak Hokkien. The Hokkiens not only dominate in Penang, they also constitute the largest Chinese group in Malaysia. The proportion is smaller in Malaysia as a whole when compared to Penang, but at 41%, it is still the predominant spoken Chinese dialect in the country (Figure 2).

The Population and Housing Census is carried out every 10 years by the Department of Statistics Malaysia. Figure 2 demonstrates the proportion of top five spoken dialects in Penang and Malaysia from 1991-2010. It is interesting to note that while other dialects showed a downward trend in Penang, the Hokkien-speaking community swelled by a growth rate of 2.6% annually from 1991-2010; this rate outpaced Penang’s population growth rate of 1.5% annually.


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