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Language Guide

Calligraphy character for "love" (ai)
Language:


The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin. Some other dialects on the island are Taiwanese and Hakka.


Romanization:


One of the frustrations a foreigner will face is the inconsistent Romanization of Chinese street and place names. Different systems are used from county to county. The two main systems for Romanizing Chinese names are Wade-Giles and Pinyin. Wade-Giles is the system that was historically used in Taiwan for Romanization. Pinyin is the system used in China and has been adopted for much part of the world. Pinyin has been made the official Romanization system for Taiwan, but there is a significant lag time expected before all of the signage is changed around the country.

Below is a chart of the English approximation, provided solely to help you work out the sound of the word from the text.


Initials

   English Guide   
   Pin Yin   
   Wade-Giles   
back
b
p
pack
p
p
dad
d
t
time
t
t
good
g
k
kurd
k
k
jinx
j*
ch
choose
q*
ch
she
x*
hs
ads
z
ts/tz
bets
c
ts/tz
chat
ch
ch
jet
zh
ch

root (curl the tongue like French ‘j’: “bonjour”), r, j

* These Initials are usually followed by an 'ee' sound (xi=English she) which changes a subsequent ‘an’ sound to ‘en’,
e.g. ‘jian’ sounds like ‘gee - en’.
If ‘i’ is followed by ‘u’, it should be pronounced ‘yu’, like the British pronunciation of ‘duke’.


Finals (vowels) and Independents

   English Guide   
   Pin Yin   
   Wade-Giles   
plant (british accent)
Cop (N. American Accent)
a
owl
ao
ao
sofa (unstressed neutral vowel)
i
ih
as above
i (after z)
u
nerd
er
erh
her
e
o
or
o
o
yeah
ie
ieh
yeah
ye*
yeh
yen
ian*
ien
yen
yan*
yen
way
ui
uei
yodel
ou
u
long
ong
ung
you
yu
you + yeah
ue
üeh
want
uo/wo
o
Taiwan
wan**
wan**

 

  • When the 'i' sound is a final it is spelled with ‘i’, but when it is an initial it changes to a ‘y’.
    E.g. "ping," "ying"
  • When the 'u' sound is a final it is spelled with ‘u’, but when it is an initial it changes to a ‘w’.
    E.g. Duan, Wan

 


Pronunciation the Taiwan Way


School children, and many foreigners, begin to learn Mandarin Chinese using a local phonetic system called “buh-puh-muh-fuh” (after the system’s first four sounds, which are written ㄅㄆㄇㄈ). This system is used in study texts, early readers, dictionaries and elementary school books.

To explore learning Chinese (Mandarin), ACI can assist you with private tutors, excellent resources and schools that specialize in language instruction in Taiwan. Click here to find out more.

Asian Consultants International