Background and status
Taiwanese Hokkien , or ‘Taiwanese’ for short, is spoken mostly by native Taiwanese (aboriginals) and understood by almost 70% of the population (15 million speakers). In general anyone born after the early 1950s in Taiwan speak Traditional Chinese which has been the official language and the medium of instruction in the schools for more than four decades. The main differences between Traditional Chinese (spoken in Taiwan) and Simplified Chinese (also referred to as Mandarin) lies in the number of characters each languages has – Traditional has about 2,000 characters more than Simplified Chinese. In Taiwan Traditional Chinese is used in more formal situations and Taiwanese in more informal situations. Taiwanese tends to get used more in rural areas, while Mandarin is used more in urban settings. Older people tend to use Taiwanese, while younger people tend to use Mandarin.
Growth and use
Until the 1980s the usage of Taiwanese was banned in schools and the number of Taiwanese programmes on the radio and television was restricted. These restrictions have now been lifted and Taiwanese is taught as a subject in some schools and used as a medium of instruction in others. Political news is broadcast in both Taiwanese and Mandarin. ‘Taiwanisation’ developed into a ‘mother tongue movement’ aiming to save, preserve, and develop the local ethnic culture and language of Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, and aborigines. By the year 2001, Taiwanese was taught in all Taiwanese schools.