Languages of Taiwan: “Frozen Garlic” to Cultural Diversity

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The political language of Taiwan's elections

Diversity in Languages:

Taiwan’s linguistic diversity is rooted in its history. The Formosan languages, spoken by indigenous peoples, are a branch of Austronesian languages. Although constituting only 2.5% of the population, these languages face endangerment, with less than half of the original 26 still in existence. Read on for more about the languages of Taiwan.

Historical Language Influences:

Major waves of Han emigration brought Sinitic languages during the Qing dynasty and the Chinese civil war’s final years. Mandarin became the dominant language with the Kuomintang-led government’s retreat to Taiwan in 1949. However, since the late 1980s and Taiwan’s democratization, there has been a deliberate effort to include English and indigenous languages in official discourse.

Political Phrases and Symbolism:

During campaign rallies, unique phrases like “frozen garlic” have emerged. In Taiwanese Hokkien, the pronunciation of “to be elected” sounds like “frozen garlic” in Mandarin. Similarly, the gift of daikon radishes symbolizes “good luck” in Mandarin. These linguistic nuances play a role in political messaging and identification.

Shifting Language Politics:

This year’s elections witnessed a notable shift in language politics. The Kuomintang (KMT) used Taiwanese in its campaign song for the first time, signaling recognition of Taiwanese identity. Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) incorporated the English phrase “Made in Taiwan,” highlighting international engagement and cultural diversity.

Towards a Multicultural Future:

Looking ahead, the government’s plan aims to further linguistic and cultural equality, emphasizing Taiwan’s multicultural development. Beyond the elections, Taiwan’s language dynamics offer valuable insights into the intersection of identity, politics, and cultural diversity.

In the evolving landscape of Taiwan’s linguistic politics, from campaign chants to gift symbolism, language serves as a powerful expression of the island’s vibrant democracy.

Unlocking Taiwan’s Linguistic Tapestry – Explore the Island’s Diverse Languages:

Taiwan boasts a rich linguistic tapestry shaped by its historical and cultural influences. Here are some key languages spoken on the island:

  • Mandarin Chinese: The official language of Taiwan, widely spoken across the island.
  • Taiwanese Hokkien (Min Nan): Evolved from southern coastal provinces, spoken by a significant portion of the population.
  • Taiwanese Hakka: Spoken by the Hakka ethnic group, with roots in 18th and 19th-century migrations.
  • Indigenous Languages: Formosan languages spoken by indigenous peoples, though many are endangered.
  • English: Widely learned and used, reflecting Taiwan’s ties with English-speaking countries.
Discover The Languages of Taiwan with Knockhundred:

At Knockhundred Translations, we understand the importance of navigating Taiwan’s multilingual landscape. If you require language services tailored to your needs, contact us today. Our expert team is ready to assist you. You can read a bit more about Mandarin Chinese here

Source: https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/short-reads/article/3249054/why-people-shout-frozen-garlic-ahead-taiwans-elections-language-political-there

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