Writing Taiwanese using Chinese characters

A common myth about Chinese languages is that different Chinese languages can be written with the same characters. This is actually far from true as there are significant differences in grammar, usage and etymology in different Chinese languages.

In May 2007 the Ministry of Education released a list of 300 characters for writing Hoklo Taiwanese. You can download a pdf of the 300 characters and a later list of 400 characters. Pinyin News has some more information. A-gu also discusses some of the new characters here.

Here are a few simple examples that demonstrate the differences between Taiwanese (台語 also known as Minnan 閩南語, Hokkien and Hoklo 福佬) written using Chinese characters (漢字 Hanzi) and standard Chinese.

Have you eaten yet?
standard Chinese: 你吃飽了沒
Taiwanese: 你食飽未

I have to leave now.
standard Chinese: 我先走了
Taiwanese: 我先來走

standard Chinese: 哪裡
Taiwanese: 叨位

standard Chinese: 什麼
Taiwanese: 啥物

don't understand
standard Chinese: 聽不懂
Taiwanese: 聽無

thank you
standard Chinese: 謝謝
Taiwanese: 多謝

standard Chinese: 不一樣
Taiwanese: 無同款

Here are some links to examples of Chinese characters used on signs in Taiwan to specificially represent the Taiwanese language.

The text below comes from a forwarded email. The first example is written in standard Chinese. The next three examples are written in Taiwanese using (1) Chinese characters, (2) a mixture of Chinese characters and romanisation and (3) romanisation. Please note, the romanised version does not include numbers or diacritical marks that are necessary to indicate the tones. Finally there is an English translation of the text.

高雄 - 新加坡 (standard Chinese)


高雄 - 新加坡 (Taiwanese using only Chinese characters)


高雄 - 新加坡 (Taiwanese using a combination of Chinese characters and romanisation)

今仔日ui3高雄坐新加坡航空來新加坡。Ti7機場e5時,飛機慢beh kah一點鐘才到。因為飛機慢到,新加坡航空特別chhoan一koa礦泉水hou7人客lim免錢e5。聽人講新加坡航空e5服務be7 bai2 ,確實,ui3提供礦泉水這件來看,hou7我e5第一印象猶be7 bai2。

Kohiong-Singapore (Taiwanese using romanisation without tone marks or numbers)

Kin-a-jit ui Kohiong che Singapore hangkhong lai Singapore. Ti ki-tiun esi, hui-ki ban beh kah 1 tiamcheng chiah kau. Eng-ui hui-ki ban kau, Singapore hangkhong tekpiat chhoan chit koa khongchoan chui hou langkheh lim bian chin e. Thian lang kong Singapore hangkhong e hokbu be bai, khaksit, ui in the-kiong khongchoan chui chit kian lai khoan, hou goa e te it insiong iau be bai.

Kaohsiung - Singapore (English translation)

Today's Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Kaohsiung was about one hour late. Because it was delayed Singapore Airlines served some mineral water for the passengers waiting in Kaohsiung. I had heard Singapore Airlines service was not bad and when they served the mineral water it left me with a good impression.


Shouldn't 無同款 be better written as 無共款?

I have just followed what my

I have just followed what my Taiwanese teacher used. There is no real standard so different people might prefer to use different characters. Another problem is newly invented characters for Taiwanese which can't be typed on a computer or found in dictionaries.

Actually every chinese

Actually every chinese character has its own sound. All the Taiwanese can be written as Chinese characters. Because Taiwanese is a kind of old "real Chinese of 漢人". For examples, reading book=讀書(standard chinese)=讀冊(Taiwanese). 讀冊(ㄊㄚ ㄘㄟˋ) is a ancient way to express the idea of reading books. Now the "Trandtional Chinese" we speak is only 100 years old. About 300 years ago, Ching dynasty compiled a dictionary which labeled with the orginal sound of each words which chinese people used before 300 years ago. Therefore you can find the pronuciation of chinese character in Japan is very similar to what we say Taiwanese in Taiwan. Because Japan used the standard pronunciation of Ming dynasty which is very close to Taiwanese. Therefore, in theroy, all the characters for Taiwanese should definitely exist in old dictionary. Our former minister of education just felt bored and was lazy to find it out. His minister picked up a lot funny characters for Taiwanese even worst than you can see in KTV's subtitles.

The PDF of Taiwanese

The PDF of Taiwanese characters is gone, can you bring it back?

added links to two pdf files

Jim, I added links to two pdf files that I had saved on my hard disk.


hi, how are you? can you explain that how to write in taiwan? I don't understand nothing can you help me ? thank you