Learning Taiwanese

Study Taiwanese

Mandarin is undoubtedly the most popular language for foreigners to learn in Taiwan. However, if you are willing to put in a bit of time and effort you can also learn Hoklo Taiwanese. In Taiwan the language is frequently referred to as Taiwanese (台語 or 台灣話) and is also known as Hokkien, Hoklo (福佬) or Minnan language (閩南語). Linguistically speaking the Hoklo Taiwanese is similar to Minnan, the language of the southern part of Fujian Province in China. This is the part of China where most Taiwanese trace their ancestry back to. Closely related dialects are also spoken in other parts of China and ethnic Chinese communities of Southeast Asia.

I have found there are two major obstacles to learning Hoklo Taiwanese in Taiwan. The first is that in most situations communicating in Mandarin is adequate and it is easier to use Mandarin than try to make a fool of yourself speaking Hoklo. The other is most Taiwanese lack a technical understanding of the language. They cannot write it in romanised form or explain the grammar or pronunciation.

That said if you put in the time and effort you can learn the language. I think it is best if you can find an experienced teacher at some stage to give you some guidance. It is important to learn some kind of system of romanisation as a learning aid. POJ (Church Romanisation) is the most commonly used and I recommend learning it as it is the most widely used system (despite its faults).

The language has seven tones and a number of difficult sounds. Also the tones usually change when a word is placed in a sentence. There are rules for this though. There are also variations in the pronunciation of some words from place to place in Taiwan. It is worth noting some of these, but don't get too worried about it.

Some people complain that Taiwanese people will speak Hoklo when they want to say something they don't want you to hear. I find this happens sometimes, but people will also be very warm and enthusiastic about anyone making an effort to learn Hoklo Taiwanese.

Taiwanese language links

Taiwanese Please


While some might speak

While some might speak Taiwanese to "say something they don't want you to hear", it's actually pretty simple to understand. If you're pretty good in Mandarin, you might just understand some basic phrases of Taiwanese (chi fan - jia beng, kuai zou - king zao). The best way to learn Taiwanese, really, is to just hear it, repeat in Mandarin (so you get the phonetic similarity), then back in Taiwanese. Thats how I learned it anyway.

My grandparents are Taiwanese. They keep forgetting I don't exactly speak Taiwanese, but recently, I found myself understanding what they're saying. I can't quite grasp the phonetics, but I understand their intentions. xD

Taiwanese or dialect?

No offense intended, but constructive.
Isn't it offensive to state that Taiwanese is a Chinese language? Isn't it better to say that the local Mandarin, Hokkien or whichever Chinese language has a local Taiwan dialect? And that real Taiwanese spoken language is Australasian? Or one of the many branches in that.

The way it is put now disregards the native population, their culture and language. I do not think that that is your intention. Maybe the article needs to be made more complete and a tad more accurate.

Hope this is a constructive comment. But I am a European and might have missed or misread something ;-). For the rest I love your domain name.

Here is a link to Taiwanese languages to add to the article:

I see your point. In more

I see your point. In more recent times I have used the term "Hoklo Taiwanese" to refer to the language. I feel that this better avoids some of the issues that come from referring to the language as "Taiwanese" only.

As to whether Hoklo Taiwanese is a language or dialect, it is in fact both. Minnan as spoken in Fujian Province, other parts of China, Taiwan and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia is a distinct language. That language has many dialects and there are several in Taiwan according to geographical area, although these relate mainly to which part of Fujian early settlers in Taiwan came from. The case could also be made that Hoklo Taiwanese is a language in its own right given the influence of Japanese and several centuries of evolution on Taiwan.

I will edit the text of this page to use Hoklo Taiwanese or Hoklo instead of Taiwanese.

Couple of clarifications

Hi, you write, "most Taiwanese lack a technical understanding of the language. They cannot write it in romanised form or explain the grammar or pronunciation."

This is equally true of Chinese, English, French, or any other people. It is a characteristic of native speakers in general that they do not think about their own language grammatically because that is not how they learned it. Foreigners, on the other hand, learn languages grammatically, for the most part.

My point goes a bit deeper

My point goes a bit deeper than that. Taiwanese receive almost all their education in Mandarin Chinese. They study its literature and learn how to write compositions in that language. They do not usually receive a similar level of instruction in Hoklo Taiwanese.