taiwan information - languages spoken

Taiwan Bus stop Taipei

A mix of Taiwanese (Minnan), Mandarin, Hakka and other Asian languages are spoken on the island, as well as several aboriginal Austronesian languages. Taiwanese is the mother tongue of 60% of the population. In the North where there is a large concentration of so-called "mainlanders" (those whose families came to Taiwan from China in the mid 20th century), most people speak Mandarin as their primary language (although Taiwanese is spoken in abundance), but in the South of the island, Taiwanese is far more common.

The Mandarin in Taiwan is a bit different from the official Beijing Dialect; most notably, Taiwan continues to use traditional Chinese characters, not the simplified versions used on the mainland. Taiwanese Mandarin also tends to not differentiate between the "S" and "Sh" sounds in Mandarin. All people schooled after 1945 are generally fluent in Mandarin, although it is sometimes not the first language of choice. Mandarin is fairly popular with young people. Some in the older generation are not fluent in Mandarin as they were schooled in Japanese or not at all. Universally the Taiwanese are very accepting of foreigners and react with curiosity and admiration for trying the local tongue. Generally, most people in Taiwan converse using a combination of Mandarin and Taiwanese by code-switching.

Especially in Taipei, people generally speak a little English. The children often understand more English than their parents, especially with the emphasis on English language education today. However, attempts to speak Mandarin or Taiwanese will be met with beaming smiles and encouragement, by and large.



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