Taiwanese language learning materials

I had my last Taiwanese class for the semester at NTNU (國立臺灣師範大學) today. I enjoyed the class a lot, but only studying once a week I didn’t really make much progress. Still I learnt some new words and had fun.

The amount of materials available for learning the Taiwanese language* are quite limited. I have only used a couple of books myself. I have written some brief notes about them here and also added some other resources.

The first Taiwanese textbook I had was Shenghuo Taiyu (生活台語). This book contains no English, but I think anyone who has studied Chinese to intermediate level should be able to comprehend it. The conversations and vocabulary are written in Standard Chinese, Taiwanese using Chinese characters and POJ (Church Romanisation).

The conversations in the book cover fairly simple topics like introductions, talking about where you live and shopping. The book has a set of tapes to accompany it. These days I don’t even own a tape player so I need to get the tapes converted to mp3 files.

This semester at NTNU I have used the materials written by Ms Hsiao (蕭老師) who taught the optional Taiwanese language course. The conversations in this book are interesting and sometimes even funny. They are very much related to the common things one encounters in daily life in Taiwan. Some of the topics include visiting a night market, summer vacation, typhoons and surfing the internet. Hsiao also provided a CD with audio files of all the conversations in the book.

sample text Taiwanese lesson 1

The image is of part of the first conversation in the book. It is written in Taiwanese using Chinese characters, standard Chinese and POJ without tone marks or numbers. The teacher gave us all the vocabulary during the lesson so we could add the tone marks if we needed to.

Update: Hsiao has published a book and CD of her lessons. The title is 實用台語會話 [Practical Taiwanese Conversation]. More details about the book here

The Maryknoll books are also commonly recommended. These books are published by the Maryknoll Institute which has a long history of teaching the Taiwanese language. I have not studied these books in detail, but they use English and POJ.

The Maryknoll books and some other Taiwanese language learning materials and dictionaries can be bought from the Tai-uan e Tiam (台灣e店) near NTU. The address is No. 6 Lane 76 Section 3 Xinsheng South Road, Taipei City (台北市新生南路三段76巷6號).

A number of online resources for learning Taiwanese can be found. Taffy’s blog, Phai-se, hasn’t been updated for a long time, but contains a few helpful articles. I came across a pdf file of Taiwanese language learning resources (original link broken, replaced with link to web archive). Taiwanderful has a page about learning Taiwanese including a list of links. There is also a page about writing Taiwanese using Chinese characters. I wrote this to help overcome the common misunderstanding that there is no difference between writing Taiwanese and Mandarin using Chinese characters.

Update: The previously mentioned blog Phai-se evolved into the website Tailingua. At reddit there is a sub-reddit dedicated to learning Taiwanese called O̍h Tâi-gí (學台語). There is also a YouTube channel Anyong Teaches Taiwanese 【詠仔教你講台語】 . The video lessons include explanations in English. 

* I use the term Taiwanese language (台語). The language is also referred to as Hoklo, Hokkein or Minnan (閩南語).

Page updated on 20 July 2016 with additional information.

5 thoughts on “Taiwanese language learning materials

  1. Hi David, I have a mini tape player and cable to connect to a computer if you want to take the time to figure out how to convert from cassette to mp3. Let me know. I have three tapes I also want to convert as well, but haven’t had any success in the limited time I tried to monkey with it. I used audacity for the audio import software. Keep in touch – marc

  2. Thanks for putting all of these Taiwanese resources together! I’m looking forward to sitting down and going through them to see what can be picked up online before investing in a book.

  3. I don’t know exactly what level you are right now, but I’ve put together some POJ materials for English-speaking students of Taiwanese that you may find helpful:

    http://taiwanesegrammar.wordpress.com/

    http://taiwanesevocabulary.wordpress.com/

    If you are a beginning student, try to find a copy of TLI’s old ’60s-era Taiwanese text. I think that it was called Survival Taiwanese, and it’s better than the 生活台語, which seems to have been based on the TLI text.

    Matthew

  4. I think the best textbooks for Taiwanese are the series by the Maryknoll Language Institute. They have some class offerings on the 8th floor of the northwest corner building of ChungHsiao and Chung Shan near Taipei Main Station, but their main campus is in Taichung. You can just go buy the material at the 台灣e店 (Taiwan Shop) across from National Taiwan University on Hsinsheng South Road one alley north of the big Truth Lutheran Church building.

    As far as Dictionaries: TLI puts out “A Dictionary of the Southern Min” by Bernard L. Embree that can be bought at the Taiwan Shop or SMC Publishing 南天書局 bookstore right behind Grace Baptist Church in the lane parallel to HsinSheng S. Rd. This dictionary is good with biological and medical terminology. The other one is put out by the Maryknoll Language Institute, with both a Taiwanese-English and an English-Taiwanese addition.

    I’m gradually adding a lexicon with the original Han Characters of Taiwanese words at

    http://www.taiwanchurch.org/taibun/eng-tai.html

    but it is not much use yet, as it is so small.

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