The Taiwanese Mandarin is a variant of the Standard Mandarin. It is widely spoken in Taiwan and is also the country’s official language. In the 1940’s, Taiwanese people started using it as a medium of instruction in schools. In Taiwan, their standard dialect is called 國語 (Guóyǔ, Kuo-yü), while the Standard Mandarin widely used in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is called Pǔtōnghuà (普通话). It was in 1945 when the Taiwanese started using Mandarin. It was introduced to them by the Chinese who took over the country from the hands of the Japanese.
From the 1940’s until the 1980’s, the use of Standard Mandarin was promoted in the entire country. However, some people still chose to speak their own language such as the Hakka tribe and the other indigenous Taiwanese. In the 1990’s, supporters of Taiwan independence fought for the replacement of the Standard Mandarin to Taiwanese Mandarin to promote the country’s identity. This effort has not however succeeded. Standard Mandarin is still the language used in the educational system with a few hours each week spent for learning local languages. In Taipei, there are a lot of people from Mainland China and they can only speak Standard Mandarin. Some older people who were educated under the Japanese regime can also speak fluent Japanese.
Differences Between Pǔtōnghuà (PRC) and Guóyǔ (ROC)
• Taiwanese Mandarin makes use of the traditional Chinese characters as opposed to the simplified Chinese characters used in the PRC. Even the Braille system is also affected due to the differences in letter assignments. The phonetic system in Taiwan is also different. They call it Zhuyin Fuhao or Bopomofo. It has 37 symbols and they represent the different sounds of spoken Mandarin.
• The pronunciation is also different especially in terms of tone. The way certain vowels or consonants are spoken is somehow different. However, according to those who can speak both languages, it is just like listening to Americans and British speak. Despite differences in the pronunciation, it is still easy for them to understand each other. Here is a small compilation of some words that depict the differences between these languages in terms of pronunciation.
• Grammar can also be different. In Mainland, China, the particle了 (le) to express past tense is usually doubled, but in Taiwan, it is used as a single sentence suffix.
• Some vocabularies may also differ. Some technological words or idioms are only specific to Taiwan and are not used in Mainland, China. There are also some words that were adopted from the Japanese due to their invasion in the 20th century.
Despite the differences between Standard and Taiwanese Mandarin, people from these countries still understand each other with ease. Some words might be misunderstood in certain contexts, but communication can still very smooth.