We have often been with Taiwanese friends where both Mandarin and Taiwanese are used interchangeably. One sentence is spoken in Mandarin, followed by another sentence in Taiwanese. Or, a sentence may begin in Taiwanese and then finish in Mandarin.
The people in central Taiwan where we serve are functionally bi-lingual. That is, they speak both Taiwanese and Mandarin in everyday life.
There are two generalizations about language in Taiwan:
The first is that people over 40 years old speak Taiwanese while those under 40 speak Mandarin. The second is that people in the North of Taiwan speak Mandarin, whereas people in the South speak Taiwanese.
These generalizations are oversimplified and are not really accurate.
The truth is that people all over Taiwan communicate (speaking and listening) in both Mandarin and Taiwanese on a daily basis.
Incoporating both languages
A local church in Taiping uses an interesting solution to incorporate both languages in the worship life of the church.
The church runs a worship service every Sunday. On the first, third, and fifth Sunday of the month, the church service (songs, preaching, prayer, and announcements) is conducted in Mandarin. On the second and fourth Sunday, the church service is conducted in Taiwanese. During informal fellowship gatherings at the church, both Taiwanese and Mandarin are used interchangeably.
The bi-lingual nature of Taiwan
The bi-lingual nature of life in Taiwan is a reality that we live with. This is why missionaries have to commit to learning language and engaging with people well.
In addition to the two major languages (Mandarin and Taiwanese), many Taiwanese are of specific ethnic backgrounds. So, they may also speak other languages such as Hakka and many of the aboriginal tribal languages.
– Nathan, Ministry Team Leader
(Taping, Taichung City, Central Taiwan)