languages and dialects spoken in Taiwan have their origins in the Austronesian
and Han lingual systems. The Austronesian languages are spoken by Taiwan's
indigenous peoples, while most common Han dialects - Minnanese and Hakka - are
primarily used by those whose ancestors immigrated from China's Fujian and
Guangdong Provinces, respectively, four centuries ago. In 1949, after the
ROC government relocated to Taiwan, Mandarin became the common language used for
communication. In 1987, as emphasis on native languages began to grow, a
movement was initiated to teach students their mother tongue so as to preserve
the languages and dialects of ethnic groups. The Ministry of Education
(MOE) is currently drafting a language equality law aimed a preserving the 14
major languages and dialects used in Taiwan.
Symbols and Romanization
represent the sounds of Mandarin, people in Taiwan use the Mandarin Phonetic
Symbols (MPS) system, a collection of 37 phonetic symbols with marks that
signify Mandarin's four tones. With regard to romanization, several
different systems are concurrently being used in Taiwan, including Wade-Giles,
Tongyong Pinyin, Hanyu Pnyin, and Gwoyeu Romatyzh. Tongyong Pinyon was
adopted as the official romanization system for Mandarin in 2002.
the MPS system was promulgated in the MOE in November 1918, all primary school
students have been required to learn the phonetic alphabet in the first
grade. Although Mandarin is still the primary language used in schools,
government, and most business offices, various county and city governments have
initiated elective courses on local languages in elementary and junior high
schools according to ethnic demographics since 1990. In September 2001,
based on revised guidelines and amended curriculum standards passed by the MOE,
primary school students began to be required to take at least one course on a
local language, such as Southern Fujianese (also called Minnanese - a
literal translation of the dialect - spoken by more than 70 percent of the
people of Taiwan), Hakka (spoken by around 15 percent of the people of Taiwan),
or an indigenous tongue.
many years, local languages such as Taiwanese, Hakka, and indigenous languages
were repressed in Taiwan to ensure that everyone mastered Mandarin. In
recent years, however, Taiwanese has entered mainstream popular culture.
on the other hand, is being spoken less and less by the younger generations, who
favor either Mandarin or Taiwanese. Thus the Council for Hakka Affairs was
formally established on June 14, 2001, with its top priority being the
preservation and revitalization of Hakka language and culture.
indigenous people are bilingual and successful members of mainstream
society. However, although more indigenous people today are willing to
identify with their heritage, the younger generations who grew up in cities
often can no longer converse in their ancestral tongue. To help rectify
this matter, in June 2001, the Taipei City Government's Indigenous Peoples
Commission cosponsored two radio programs to introduce the languages, cultures,
and activities of the indigenous peoples to Taiwan. In addition, these
programs began broadcasting the latest policies and welfare packages available
to indigenous peoples residing in Taipei. In July 2001, the CAA adopted
New Zealand's Köhanga Reo program for the Mäoris and implemented the Scheme of
Aboriginal Language Networks in its 12 districts to provide total immersion
education. Nonetheless, only those indigenous students recognized by the Aborigine
Identification Law who obtain a Certificate of Aboriginal Language
Proficiency can apply for a 25 percent increase in school entrance examination
scores beginning in 2005.
shared system of writing has been the primary unifying force among Chinese since
the Chin dynasty (221-206 B.C.)
In China, however, the Beijing leadership has promoted the use of a simplified
form of Chinese characters. Only in Taiwan are traditional Chinese
characters still being used, giving the Taiwanese people continuity with their
past as well as the ability to read Chinese classics and other ancient
writings. Although there are approximately 50,000 Chinese characters
listed in the Kangsi Dictionary (18th century), a person only needs to learn
around 4,000 to read an average newspaper article. Every Chinese character
has a distinct meaning; however, because most words are combinations of two or
more characters, understanding such a large number of characters becomes
people have their own spoken and written language. Chinese belongs to the
Han-Tibetan language family. It is the most commonly used language in
China, and one of the most commonly used languages in the world.
Chinese emerged in its embryonic form of carved symbols approximately 6,000
years ago. The Chinese characters used today evolved from those used in
bone and tortoise shell inscriptions more than 3,000 years ago and the bronze
inscriptions produced soon after.
Drawn figures were gradually reduced to
patterned stroke, pictographs were reduced to symbols, and the complicated
graphs became simpler. Early pictographs and ideographs were joined by
In fact, there are six categories of Chinese
characters: pictographs, self-explanatory characters, associative compounds,
pictophonetic characters, phonetic loan characters, and mutually explanatory
official language is the same as mainland China's, which is Mandarin Chinese.
Some of those native to Taiwan speak Taiwanese. Chinese and Taiwanese are
similar in that they both use Chinese characters, but in Taiwan the old
characters are still in use, whereas a simplified version is used on the
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