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What Languages Are Spoken in Taiwan?

The language situation in Taiwan is complex and a bit messy, but it is an interesting topic to know and learn more details about.

This article will give you a simple overview of what languages are spoken in Taiwan and some indigenous languages that still survive.

What Makes Taiwan Special!

Taiwan is a small country in East Asia with a total area of 35,980 square km. Its capital city is Taipei and the largest city is New Taipei with over 23 million people This represents more than Netherlands, which is the most densely populated country in Europe, in a smaller area. 

Taiwan is well known for producing a few different things, but the most famous are its electronics and their components. It’s also considered a multi-cultural country due to the influences of other nearby countries like China, Japan and Korea.

What are the main languages spoken in Taiwan?

While it’s a small country, Taiwan is home to over 20 living languages but there are only three main Chinese languages found in Taiwan: Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka.

If you plan to establish a business in Taiwan or make a trip, you need to know more about the major languages in Taiwan. 

  • Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Taiwan, but that’s not the only thing you need to know. There are two forms of Mandarin spoken in Taiwan: Standard Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin (Hokkien). 
  • Standard Mandarin is the language used in schools and is commonly used by people under 60 years. Also, it’s the most common language spoken in Taipei.
  • Taiwanese (Hokkien) is the primary language used by the public and is visible in the transport system. It’s especially important outside Taipei and is becoming a common tongue in broadcast media.  
  • The Hakka language is considered the third main Chinese language in Taiwan, but it’s spoken only by an ethnic group called the Hakka. The group has decided to preserve their language despite the growing influence of Mandarin and Taiwanese. 

There are also the Formosan languages in Taiwan

Besides Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka, other indigenous languages still survive in Taiwan, but these are generally used by very small localized populations that continue to shrink every year. 

Formosan languages are mainly spoken by the indigenous populations of Taiwan. Only 2% of the population is Formosan by nature and less than that still speak their traditional languages.

If you are interested in knowing and studying rare languages or that are close to extinction, you should know some facts. 

Only 35% of Taiwanese speak their ancestral language due to centuries of language shift from 26 languages of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples. At least ten dialects are already extinct, another four or five are moribund, and all others are endangered. These languages are known as Formosan languages, which are slowly being replaced by the culturally dominant Taiwanese Mandarin. Some, but not all, of Formosan languages include Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Thao, and Saisiyat.

Language Facts about Taiwan you need to know!

  • Only 2.3% of the Taiwanese population is native
  • Taiwan’s official title is the Republic of China
  • The national language of Taiwan is Mandarin
  • About 14 recognized indigenous tribes exist in Taiwan and each one has its own language
  • There are about 20 Living Languages in Taiwan
  • About 87% of Taiwanese can speak English 
  • Taiwan’s indigenous languages are defined as endangered by UNESCO  
  • The young population in Taiwan is bilingual, with a command of both Taiwanese and Mandarin
  • Among the indigenous languages of Taiwan, the Amis language is the most widely spoken 

The Main Foreign/Immigrant Languages of Taiwan

As a natural result of the rapid development of the world and because it is one of the most important global economic and industrial centers, many foreign languages have been spoken in Taiwan during its different historical stages.

  • Japanese is considered the second largest foreign language in the country and it’s more popular with the older generation. It was introduced to Taiwan during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945).
  • English is the most important foreign language in Taiwan as it’s the undisputed language of international commerce, with a growing number of English speakers in the country. Also it is taught in schools, a situation which has been attributed to the increasing population of young English proficient speakers.

Besides Japanese and English, other immigrant languages are spoken by thousands of foreigners in Taiwan such as Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Mongolian.

Conclusion

As you can see, many common and indigenous languages are spoken in Taiwan. This is because it is a center of international trade and a country with a long and rich history. If you want to do business in Taiwan, you need to know or translate your ideas into Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka to reach the largest audience in Taiwan.

Please leave a comment below and let us know if you have any more questions about the languages spoken in Taiwan.

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