Online resources for Taiwanese learning

At the beginning of this year I started taking Taiwanese classes at Maryknoll in Taipei. Taiwanese is a language from the same family as Mandarin Chinese (which I already have a conversational ability in) and the difference between the two is said to be akin to that between two Romance languages, say French and Spanish. Not too hard then, right? Ha!

One of the problems facing the Taiwanese learner is the severe lack of resources available for the language. Over the years it has been suppressed (by both the Japanese and the KMT) and only has a worldwide speaking population of around 30 50 million (including near cousin dialects), so it’s not the most popular choice for foreign language study. Add to this the fact that there is no universally agreed-upon system to write it down and that it’s just plain difficult to learn; perhaps it’s no surprise that few choose to do so.

So, what help is out there for English-speaking would-be learners? Well, aside from the materials produced by Maryknoll (including textbooks, dictionaries and tapes) and one other textbook which is pretty poor, there is a small range of stuff available on the net – here’s a brief survey:

Wikipedia

Probably the best place to start. The article on Taiwanese is pretty comprehensive and balanced, with some good links.

Minnan Wikipedia

Simply the largest collection of romanised Taiwanese articles on the web. Uses the Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ) romanisation system – the one I learned and use on this blog.

Lomaji

Written predominantly in mixed Han and POJ orthography, I lack the necessary literacy with characters to properly evaluate this site.

Glossika

Site to learn Taiwanese that starts off quite promisingly, but there are only ten lessons available to view – the rest can be purchased as audio files. Bah.

Daiwanway

Has not been updated in some years, but still carries a useful amount of information about the language. Also has a Taiwanese > Mandarin dictionary, but the romanisation system is odd.

Sadly, that’s about it for the moment. As I said, resources are sparse and it requires a lot of motivation to study – the best way to improve is to speak with the people all the time.

Above: Puppet shows are usually all in Taiwanese.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Hoklo, Minnan, Taiwan, Taiwanese language

12 Comments on “Online resources for Taiwanese learning”

  1. Prince Roy Says:

    I’m interested in reading about your impressions of Maryknoll. I just started studying 台語 a couple of months ago, but I have no time for it really. Does Maryknoll have a night class?

  2. Taffy Says:

    They’re pretty flexible really – I did 7-10pm, twice a week. Tough, but a good grounding for me, especially in pronunciation, tones and POJ.

    The teacher there (謝老師) followed the standard ‘repeat from the book without ever deviating’ method, but she was very patient and understanding of my linguistic stumbling. The books are dull, dull, dull. Overall I’d give the classes a five out of ten, but then there isn’t really much choice out there, is there?

  3. Charlie Says:

    Really nice site and entry, I also want to learn Taiwanese, but I only know some phrases and 廢話

    Congratulations again for this new blog, btw I found it via Mr. Turton.

    See Ya
    Charlie

  4. Taffy Says:

    Hi Charlie, thanks for the comments. It’s really hard to find information about Taiwanese on the web so I plan to post about different aspects of the language. I’m only a beginner myself so hopefully this will push me to study harder.


  5. Great to see you post about this. Hopefully it will inspire me to make more efforts with the Taiwanese language. I can understand some, which is mainly a result of having my ears bashed with it for long periods of time, but I can’t really say more than a few words.

    I will also add a link to your new blog from mine.

  6. Jason Says:

    Welcome to the jungle, Taffy, and thanks for adding me to your blogroll.

    My 台語 teacher at NTNU created her own textbooks… you might want to track her down if you have a chance. I don’t know if she’s still teaching there (this was about 3 years ago), but her name is 蕭惠如 and she’s a kick to talk with.

    Best of luck,

    Jason

  7. Mark S. Says:

    There’s also a good set of Taiwanese links on the Web site of Li KhinhoaN. The Taiwanese-Mandarin On-line Dictionary is especially useful.

  8. Taffy Says:

    Thanks for the link Mark. It’s not a bad dictionary, especially as it uses POJ romanisation, but I can’t help thinking that the best way to find a decent English-Taiwanese online dictionary would be to enter it myself! There is a missionary dictionary which is out of copyright – when I have the time to devote to it (hah!) I will look in to the feasability of using OCR to upload that text to a usable online form. I saw your OCR experiments in Pinyin News – finding something that works for Taiwanese would be great (although I’m not getting my hopes up).

  9. Mei Says:

    Hi, everybody,

    I am an international student in Louisiana. I would like to assist anybody learning Mandarin or Taiwanese, please feel free to contact me.

  10. Richard Says:

    Hi,

    Do you know why the Daiwanway website is down now? I found that website to be very nice for english -> taiwanese dictionary. I speak Taiwanese pretty well and just need occasional vocab help sometimes but it stopped working more than 5-6 months ago…

  11. JOSE Says:

    hi

    I would like to buy some taiwanese textbooks and dictionaries, do you know where i can find them?


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