Understanding the Languages of Taiwan

Taiwan is an island state located off the coast of Mainland China. Over 23 million people live in Taiwan, making it a very densely populated country. Taiwan has more 7-Eleven stores per capita than any other country in the world. Also, they are one of the first countries to offer free Wi-Fi on a mass scale to their citizens. (They offer it to visitors as well!)

What are some of the languages of Taiwan? Let’s explore this further.

Written Chinese

In Taiwan, Chinese is written with Traditional Chinese characters. This is important to note as Mainland China uses Simplified Chinese characters to write Chinese. What are the differences between the two? We go into this in more detail in a previous blog post: Simplified Chinese vs Traditional Chinese. This can make Chinese translation a little tricky! When translating your content for a Taiwanese audience, make sure that you specify this with your language translation partner. They will use in-country linguists who can translate your content into Traditional Chinese for  Taiwan.

Spoken Chinese

In Taiwan, most languages spoken are members of the Chinese language family.

Standard Mandarin (or simply Mandarin) is the official language of Taiwan (as it is in Mainland China).  It has been taught in schools as the official language since the end of World War II. It is spoken by nearly the entire population. Therefore, Mandarin is considered the lingua franca (bridge language) for people living in Taiwan. Standard Mandarin’s pronunciations are based on the Beijing dialect. Of course, informal spoken Taiwanese Mandarin will differ from Mandarin spoken in Mainland China, similar to differences in English for the United States and the United Kingdom. (There are different vocabulary words or pronunciations.)

Taiwanese Hokkien is also known as Taiwanese. It is a member of the Min Chinese language family. Hokkien is spoken by about 70 percent of people in Taiwan.

Taiwanese Hakka is spoken by people of Hakka ancestry. Hakka languages are members of the Gan-Hakka Chinese language family.


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