With multiple cultural influences throughout its history, Taiwan has formed a unique cultural blend of Han Chinese, Japanese, European, American and Taiwan’s own aboriginal cultures. These past influences and Taiwan’s globalized outlook have made Taiwan a friendly multicultural environment for visitors from around the world.
Mandarin Chinese is the official language in Taiwan, and is spoken by the majority of people and is the language of instruction in education. As in Hong Kong and Macau, Traditional Chinese is used as the written language in Taiwan. Other oral languages such as Hakka and Fuzhou dialects originated in different provinces of China and are spoken by a small percentage of the population. Taiwanese, another dialect, is spoken by most of the population.
The indigenous languages of Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes (roughly 26 in total) do not belong to the Chinese or Sino-Tibetan language family, but rather to the Austronesian language family. These languages used among the Taiwanese aboriginal minority groups have been in decline and the government has taken steps to protect these native groups and their languages as national treasures.
From 1895 to 1945 the Japanese colonized Taiwan and the Japanese language was taught and was required to be spoken by all Taiwanese during the fifty-year occupation. As a result, there are still some elderly Taiwanese who speak Japanese as a second language.
In the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of expats coming to work in Taiwan and even starting families here. With the increase in multilingual expats there are more world languages being used or spoken in Taiwan.
English is taught widely in schools around Taiwan and can be used somewhat more frequently in major cities, however in rural cities or towns it is comparatively difficult to communicate without using the Taiwanese dialect. Taiwanese are friendly and willing to help even when there is a language barrier. Relying on the help of friends and acquaintances can only go so far, one advantage of being in Taiwan is the opportunity to learn and practice Mandarin every chance you have.