Japanese Words in Taiwanese
What is the Taiwanese Language?
In my earlier hub, Varieties of Spoken Chinese: Top 5 Dialects Worth Learning, I indicated that Minnan, or the Southern Min dialect, was one of the most important dialects of Chinese worth learning. The sub-dialect of Minnan, Taiwanese, is an especially interesting language that has fascinated me since the late 1960s.
Taiwanese has its origins in the city of Xiamen in Fujian Province of China. Most of the speakers of Taiwanese today are descendants of residents from Xiamen and surrounding areas of Fujian and Guangdong Province who settled on Taiwan in the 1600s. Other speakers are the descendants of military and civilian refugees from China who fled from the Communists in the years 1945 - 1950. The language as spoken today has its origins in China and differs from Minnan about the same way as American English differs from British English.
Taiwanese Words Borrowed From Other Languages
The Taiwanese language which has been spoken for more than 400 years reflects the long history of Taiwan. It includes words borrowed from its aborigine settlers, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, and English.
Most scholars disagree about how and when the first settlers came to Taiwan. Everyone, however, agrees that the language of the aborigine people who now number 400,000 and live in the mountains is entirely different from the Chinese language. I do know that certain words have been absorbed into Taiwanese. One of these words is "i-a" which means mother.
Historical records indicate that the Portuguese were the first westerners to sight Taiwan in 1517. they called Taiwan, Formosa, which means beautiful island. This name exists up until today. The word, "sap-bun" which means soap is another word originating from Portuguese.
During the 1600s the Dutch controlled Taiwan for a few decades until they were finally driven out by the Chinese in the late 1600s. There probably are words in Taiwanese with origins from Dutch, but I am unaware of any examples to cite in this article.
Taiwanese Words Borrowed From Japanese
Japanese along with English have undoubtedly had the greatest number of words borrowed into the Taiwanese language. For Japanese, this is not surprising, because Japan controlled Taiwan from 1895 until 1945. With Japanese as the official language, all business was conducted in Japanese, and worthy Taiwanese students received education in Japanese run schools. Young Taiwanese men were conscripted into military service, and others were sent to Japan for further training in Japanese. During this period a lot of Japanese words started appearing in the Taiwanese language.
I will now detail the Japanese vocabulary which I encountered while using the Taiwanese language on Taiwan in the 1970s. the words are divided into categories with the Taiwanese Romanization of the word preceding its English meaning.
1. Food and Drink:
"phan" - bread; "ba-ta" - butter; "tho-ma-to" - tomato; "khe-chah-pu" - ketchup; and "bii-lu" - beer
2. Family Members:
"o-baa-san" - older woman or aunt; "o-ji-san" - older man or uncle; and "ok-san" - married woman
3. Means of Transportation:
"o-to-bai" - motorcycle; "to-lak-ku" - truck; "ba-su" - bus; and "ta-ku-si" - taxi
4. Clothing and Housewares:
"ne-ku-tai" - necktie; "wai-sjat-su" - shirt; "ka-ten" - curtain; "su-li-pa" - slipper; "tau-lu" - towel; "mat-chi" - match; "lai-ta" - lighter; "lo-lai-ba" - screwdriver; "la-chio" - radio; "ka-me-la" - camera; and "tan-su" - closet
5. Miscellaneous Words:
"at-sa-li" - straightforward; "gei" - artificial; "ga-su" - gas; "kam-pan" - signboard; "moa-chi" - sticky sweet bean dessert; "ben-so"; toilet; "?krit-ga-mi?" - lipstick or cosmetics; "manga" - cartoon or comics; and "sensei" - doctor
In the future the Taiwanese language will continue to borrow many English words directly or through Japanese. Hopefully, this article will give the reader a feeling for the origins of the Taiwanese language.
Foreign Words Used in Taiwanese
Which foreign words do you see or hear being used most in Taiwanese
Another Hub Related to Taiwanese
- Colorful Taiwanese Idioms
To communicate well in Taiwanese it is necessary to learn useful expressions and idioms. This hub is a sampling of daily adjectives, verbs, expressions, and idioms used by native Taiwanese speakers.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn