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Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin and Cantonese

Pīnyīn News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:13

About a year and a half ago, when I last posted on a recurring poll of what people in Hong Kong think of Mandarin and Cantonese (as well as other “icons” relevant to Hong Kong) I predicted that “the next survey will show aversion to Mandarin surpassing affection for and pride in that language.”

As of the 2016 survey, aversion to Mandarin was at 17.7 percent of the population, whereas affection for and pride in Putonghua, as the survey labels it, were at 20.1 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively. So I was wrong.

Nevertheless, Mandarin certainly isn’t winning any popularity contests in Hong Kong these days. Although the levels of those averse to Mandarin and those proud of it are now just about equal, among Hong Kongers pride in Mandarin is lower than pride in any other surveyed item. Affection toward Mandarin was similarly lower, avoiding the bottom spot only because the Chinese army came in less than one point lower.

Attitudes in Hong Kong toward Mandarin and Cantonese, 2012-2016

Detail of the above chart, 2012-2016

Generally speaking, positive feelings for Cantonese are higher — usually much higher — than positive feelings for other Hong Kong icons, while negative feelings about Cantonese are much lower than for most other icons. On the other hand, feelings for Mandarin are more highly negative and less strongly positive than for most other icons.

sources and further reading:


Pīnyīn News - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 11:57

Today I’d like to talk about a sign at a stand that sells guabao, a quintessential Taiwanese snack.

I took my own photo, but it didn’t make the guabao look particularly appetizing, so I’m using a public-domain image instead so you can see what one looks like if you don’t already know. But when I buy one I have them leave off the cilantro/xiāngcài. I hate that stuff.

Here’s the sign.



(NT$50 is about US$1.50.)

The sign uses some Taiwanese, specifically “a刈包.” If the whole thing were in romanized Taiwanese, it would be

Su-pâng ê

To̍k-ka kháu-bī
50 îⁿ

But parts of that are unidiomatic, as Taiwanese expert Michael Cannings informs me. (Alas, my Taiwanese sucks.) So this is a sign in both Taiwanese and Mandarin, which isn’t particularly surprising given that guabao is a Taiwanese food but most people in northern Taiwan use Mandarin most of the time. (I’m using the spelling “guabao” rather than “koah-pau” in most of this post because this is a Pinyin site.)

Something about this sign did surprise me a lot. Can you guess?

  • It’s not the use of a Roman letter — I should probably say “English letter” in this case, since here the letter is meant to be pronounced much like the “A” in “ABC” — though regular readers know that’s certainly more than enough to get me interested.
  • It’s not that the sign has “刈包” rather than “割包” for guabao. In searches restricted to .tw domains, Google returns 181,000 results for “刈包” and just 41,900 results for “割包”, even though Taiwan’s Ministry of Education prefers the latter form. Even on government Web pages “刈包” beats “割包” by a ratio of more than two to one.
  • It’s not the style in which “刈包” is written by hand, though I kinda like that.
  • And it’s not even that “a” was used instead of a different Roman letter: “ê”.

What seems to me most distinctive about this sign is that the Roman letter appears in lowercase rather than as “A”.

A single letter being used to represent a Sinitic morpheme in a text otherwise in Chinese characters is almost always written in upper case, e.g., A菜, 宮保G丁, K書. (Oh, that reminds me: I really need to answer that e-mail message about K. Sorry, Steven.)

In other words, if a sign is going to have the Roman letter “a” stand in for the Taiwanese possessive particle (the equivalent of Mandarin’s de/的), I would expect in this particular case for the sign to have “私房A” rather than “私房a”. I’m pleased by the use of lowercase; capital letters should be mainly for proper nouns and the beginnings of sentences.

It’s probably a one-off. But just in case I’ll be on the lookout to see if there’s a trend toward greater use of lowercase.

The text also presents a challenge: How should this be written in Pinyin? The last part (獨家口味 / 50元) is easy, because it’s just straight modern standard Mandarin:

dújiā kǒuwèi
50 yuán

But what to do with this?


Probably this:

Sīfáng ê

Most Common Taiwanese Given Names

Pīnyīn News - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 06:39

Below are the most common given names for Taiwanese, as of June 2016. For the numbers of people with any of these given names, see the graph below. Note that there are more Taiwanese with even the tenth-most-popular name for girls than the most popular name for boys.

If you would like a chart of such names for Taiwanese in their twenties and thirties (specifically, those born 1976–1994), see Common Taiwanese given names. For the most common family names in Taiwan, see Taiwan personal names: a frequency list.

For the most likely spelling, bastardized Wade-Giles is given.

Most popular given names for Taiwanese males No. Hanzi Pinyin Spelling Likely Used by Someone with This Name 1 家豪 Jiāháo Chia-hao 2 志明 Zhìmíng Chih-ming 3 俊傑 Jùnjié Chun-chieh 4 建宏 Jiànhóng Chien-hung 5 俊宏 Jùnhóng Chun-hung 6 志豪 Zhìháo Chih-hao 7 志偉 Zhìwěi Chih-wei 8 文雄 Wénxióng Wen-hsiung 9 金龍 Jīnlóng Chin-lung 10 志強 Zhìqiáng Chih-chiang Most popular given names for Taiwanese females No. Hanzi Pinyin Spelling Likely Used by Someone with This Name 1 淑芬 Shūfēn Shu-fen 2 淑惠 Shūhuì Shu-hui 3 美玲 Měilíng Mei-ling 4 雅婷 Yǎtíng Ya-ting 5 美惠 Měihuì Mei-hua 6 麗華 Lìhuá Li-hua 7 淑娟 Shūjuān Shu-chuan 8 淑貞 Shūzhēn Shu-chen 9 怡君 Yíjūn Yi-chun 10 淑華 Shūhuá Shu-hua

Note: Although I refer to these as “Taiwanese” names, I give the Mandarin forms (since Hanyu Pinyin is a system for writing Mandarin), not names in Hoklo/Hokkien (the language often referred to as Taiwanese).

Source: ROC Ministry of the Interior.

Gwoyeu Romatzyh in the wild

Pīnyīn News - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 14:29

Although Gwoyeu Romatzyh was technically the ROC’s official romanization system for most of the twentieth century (through 1986), it’s very seldom seen in Taiwan. The most common place for it to appear is on the side of coach buses. But here’s an example of Guoyeu Romatzyh on a shipping box for thousand-year-old eggs:


Guoyeu Romatzyh is often most easily identified by the doubled vowel in most (but not all) third-tone syllables. But this example doesn’t have any of those. The y indicates second tone (except when it doesn’t). And the doubled final n is a marker of fourth tone. (Have I ever mentioned that Gwoyeu Romatzyh often reminds me of “The Name Game“?)

In Hanyu Pinyin, songhua pyidann is sōnghuā pídàn.

Another technical point, this photo wasn’t taken in Taiwan proper but rather on Kinmen (金門), which provides an example of a romanization system older than Gwoyeu Romatzyh, older than Wade-Giles even. It’s postal romanization, which I regard as too mixed up to properly be called a system. In Hanyu Pinyin, Kinmen is Jinmen. The island is also known as Quemoy.

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 039: Caleb Shetland

Chinese Learn Online - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:37

In this episode, I interview Caleb Shetland, an American now working in Taipei as a firmware engineer.

Listen to find out:

- His experience learning Chinese at a US college
– What approach he wishes he had used instead, to learn characters
– When he realized that learning Mandarin would be useful for his engineering career
– How he thinks Mandarin compares in difficulty versus other languages
– His experience traveling overseas for the first time to Beijing
– His experience as a foreign student at a Chinese campus
– His struggle trying to find a job as an expat engineer in Taiwan
– His initial experience working in an office environment in Taiwan
– What it was like being the only foreigner in a large multi-national company
– The benefit of being a foreign engineer in Taiwan
– The demand for expats in the local tech industry
– The importance of co-ops and internships

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 038: Alex Trup

Chinese Learn Online - Thu, 09/01/2016 - 09:29

In this episode I interview Alex Trup, a Brit now working in Digital Marketing in Taipei, Taiwan.

Listen to find out:

- About his experience learning Chinese in the UK
– How he went from China to Taiwan
– His experience as a foreigner in a Taiwanese working environment
– Why he likes Taipei compared to other cities he’s lived in
– His experience as a new father in a mixed cultural relationship
– His approach to raising his child in a bilingual environment
– What he would have done differently if he was to learn Chinese from the start
– His advice for a westerner looking for a job in Taiwan or China
– How he got the job at his current company as one of its first expat hires

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 037: XiaoFei

Chinese Learn Online - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 12:14

In this episode I interview Xiao Fei, an American blogger now living in Taiwan.

Listen to find out:

- His experience trying to get a degree at a local Taiwanese university
– Why he switched out of the Chinese program to an English one
– His experience living in China
– Why he finds his current university program more manageable
– How and why he started a blog about waterfalls in Taiwan (Facebook)
– His long term plans in Taiwan
– What he would do differently if he was to learn Chinese again
– Why he thinks writing is a valuable skill to learn
– Why he’s proud of his sloppy writing
– His opinion on telling jokes in Chinese

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 036: Keoni Everington

Chinese Learn Online - Wed, 08/10/2016 - 05:06

In this episode I interview Keoni Everington, an American now working in the media business in Taiwan.

Listen to find out:

- What got him interested in learning Chinese 20 years ago
– What it was like learning Chinese in Ohio
– How he benefited from guanxi early on
– What it was like moving from Ohio to Beijing in 1994
– How he overcame the difficult living conditions back then
– All the different jobs he had along the way, and how he progressed through them
– His secret to getting jobs that he may not be directly qualified for
– The advantages and disadvantages between working for Chinese companies versus western ones
– What he wishes he had done differently career wise
– What he recommends more foreigners do to expand their career paths
– An alternate approach you could use to work at a specific company

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 035: Scott Faul

Chinese Learn Online - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 11:31

In this episode I interview Scott Faul, an American now living in Taiwan.

Listen to find out:

- What got him interested in learning Chinese, while in the US
– His experience studying Chinese in Taiwan, while working on the side
– How he used the Chinese he had learned, while working in the US
– The benefits he found for being able to speak Chinese, while looking for work
– His experience living in Beijing for 10 years
– The difference he found in culture between China and Taiwan
– The difference in accents and slang he experienced between Taipei and Beijing
– What he would have done differently regarding learning Chinese
– Why he switched from business to doing a masters in translation
– What his career plans in translation are currently
– The difference in business culture in China / Taiwan versus in America
– How negotiations are handled differently in China / Taiwan versus out west

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 034: Aaron Simmons

Chinese Learn Online - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 05:22

In this episode I interview Aaron Simmons, an American Professional Development Coach. He is the founder of Diversify International and Multi-Lingual Story Corner.

Listen to find out:

- What got him interested in Chinese culture and language in the first place, while studying in the US
– Why he chose a more challenging route to learning Chinese
– What his experience was living in China while in an intensive program learning Chinese
– Why he moved from China to Taiwan
– How he got his first job managing a school
– What he found unique about managing local Taiwanese employees
– How he had to change his management style to adapt to local culture
– How he adapted to becoming a consultant
– How he improved his Chinese skills as a result
– Why he decided to start his own consulting company
– How he found new clients
– How he adapted from simplified Chinese characters to traditional ones
– What the biggest challenge he had adapting to Chinese in Taiwan was

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 033: Alex Barker

Chinese Learn Online - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 04:00

In this episode, I interview Alex Barker, an American consultant about his experience learning Chinese

Listen to this episode to find out:

- How Alex got interested in learning Chinese in America
– His experience in an American college class learning Chinese
– Why he didn’t make as much progress in Chinese as he wanted to
– His experience taking a university class in Chinese in Taiwan
– His experience working as an intern at the American Chamber of Commerce
– Why he found it useful to have Mandarin ability on his resume
– Why he feels there are multiple levels of Mandarin ability
– His experience with personal relationships that only use Chinese
– What he would do differently if he had to study Chinese again
– Why he would encourage students in school to choose Chinese as a second language
– What advice he would give to students learning Chinese in a non Chinese speaking area
– How he recommends people learn colloquial Chinese
– What threw him off about speaking Chinese in Taiwan versus in Beijing
– His experience being on Taiwanese game shows

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 032: Adriana Estrada

Chinese Learn Online - Thu, 06/30/2016 - 04:00

In this episode I interview Adriana Estrada from Guatemala, who has lived in Taiwan for the past 7 years, completing her undergraduate and master’s degree during that time.

Listen to find out:

- What brought Adriana to Taiwan in the first place
– What advantages she brings to the work place over local Taiwanese
– What types of companies she’s looking to work at
– Her experience completing an engineering degree in Chinese
– Why she chose Taiwan to do her degree in
– Why she’s glad she did her degree in Chinese and the approach she took
– Why other students come to Taiwan, but don’t learn as much Chinese as they should
– Why she feels most learning of Chinese is done outside of the classroom
– Why she feels getting a degree in Taiwan isn’t for everyone
– What aspects of culture shock she’s experienced in Taiwan versus Guatemala
– Her experience dating Taiwanese men
– Whether she’s affected by the amount of Taiwanese used by locals
– Her opinion on the different food options available

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 031: Nick Howard

Chinese Learn Online - Wed, 06/22/2016 - 04:00

In this episode, I interview Nick Howard, an American who has been living in Taiwan for the past 9 years.

Listen to find out:

- What brought him to Taiwan in the first place
– How he moved up from teaching at a cram school to teach at a university
– The process he went through learning Chinese
– Why learning Chinese was a priority for him
– Why he switched from learning in class to learning on his own
– How he transitioned from teaching to consulting
– Why he started a co-working space (Facebook)
– What he would recommend for expats wanting to switch from teaching to a different career path
– Why he recommends living in a smaller town, for those wanting to improve their Chinese and understanding of local culture
– How Taiwanese is used locally versus Mandarin
– How he’s been able to get along with his wife’s Taiwanese family

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 030: Derek McCracken

Chinese Learn Online - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 10:10

In this episode I interview Derek McCracken, an American who has been living in Taiwan for 7 years.

Listen to find out:

- What brought Derek to Asia and specifically Taiwan
– How he started teaching English, while looking for other opportunities
– How he started his first business in Taiwan
– How he compares starting a business in Taiwan compared to Thailand
– How he began learning Chinese on the side
– What benefits he found from being able to speak Chinese at a functional level
– What skill he thinks is necessary for expats to learn Chinese
– What things he did in his learning to get to the next level
– How he transitioned into his current job at an international fitness company.
– What cultural differences he’s noticed comparing Taiwanese clients with American and Thai ones
– Why he chooses to live in Taiwan than America
– What advice he’d give to an expat wanting to change their career path

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 029: Adam Menon

Chinese Learn Online - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 09:26

In this episode, I actually interview… myself! Well not, really. I invited CLO user Joe Cooperman to interview me on my motivation for coming to Taiwan and starting this course teaching fellow expats how to speak Mandarin.

Listen to find out:

- Why Joe uses CLO
– What brought me to Taiwan
– What problem I found with many methods teaching Chinese
– How I transitioned from teaching English to teaching Chinese
– What other Chinese resources I liked and was influenced by
– Why the lesson material is limited to 7 levels
– How the usage of the site has changed over the years
– On the future of the site


Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 028: Steve Iglehart

Chinese Learn Online - Tue, 05/10/2016 - 04:00

In Part 2 of this episode, we continue our interview with American businessman Steve Iglehart.

Listen to find out:

- How he moved on to the skin care market
– What his biggest challenge was in this market
– The intense process of training salespeople to use his product
– How he learned to read people’s reactions over the years
– What the advantage of being an expat was, when it came to sales
– What businesses he has since transitioned to
– Why he thinks it’s easier for an expat to do business in Taiwan today
– Why he feels a local university degree is the best way to reach fluency in Chinese

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 027: Steve Iglehart

Chinese Learn Online - Wed, 05/04/2016 - 12:17

Steve Iglehart is an American businessman from San Francisco who has been living in Taiwan for almost 30 years.

Listen to this episode to find out:

- What made Steve want to learn Chinese
– Why he chose to come to Taiwan
– His first moments in Taiwan, looking for a Chinese school
– Why he decided to stay on in Taiwan and do a university degree locally
– Why he found the degree to be one of his most challenging life experiences
– His experience job hunting after graduating
– How he learned how business was conducted locally
– What his first business was
– What reaction locals had to doing business with him

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 026: Keiran

Chinese Learn Online - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 04:00

Keiran is a Canadian living in Taiwan, now working in the bicycle industry.

Listen to this episode to find out:

- What brought Keiran to Taiwan in the first place
– How he began learning Chinese initially
– What he didn’t like about his first school
– How he found people to practice his Chinese with
– Where the most effective part of his learning came from
– What he did to make himself more approachable for casual conversation with strangers
– Why he ended up getting a university degree in Taiwan
– What challenges he had getting the degree
– Why he feels learning more than one language at the same time is an effective way to learn
– Why getting a university degree locally in Taiwan is a great opportunity
– How he started in the bicycle industry
– His advice for expats wanting to do something different career wise
– Why being able to speak Chinese was helpful to him
– His advice for expats wanting to take their Chinese to the next level
– How he recommends you make the most of your experience abroad

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 025: Ross

Chinese Learn Online - Tue, 04/19/2016 - 04:00

In this episode, I interview Ross Darrell Feingold, an American now working as a senior advisor at the DC International Advisory, a law firm in Taipei, Taiwan.

Listen to this episode to find out:

- What made Ross focus on learning Mandarin Chinese 20 years ago
– What a one year intensive Mandarin learning program in Singapore was like
– Why he felt this program was still not enough for him
– What it was like to take a Mandarin studies course in a small American university
– What made him choose Taiwan over Singapore and China to further his Chinese learning
– What his plan was, after learning Chinese
– The most important thing to consider when applying for a job in Asia
– How he compares Asia with the west
– The differences in company culture
– A misconception he’s noticed in company hours
– Why he chooses to live in Asia
– How he uses Chinese in his daily work

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 024: Jon

Chinese Learn Online - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 04:00

In this interview, I interview Jon Renzella, an American artist now living in Taichung, Taiwan.

Listen to this episode to find out:

- What brought Jon to Taiwan in the first place
– Why he wanted to live in a place that didn’t speak English
– How he began learning Chinese without any formal classes
– His current approach to learning how to read Chinese
– How he uses technology to help with learning how to read
– How he transitioned into being a full time artist in Taiwan
– His experience joining the local art community
– His advice for fellow expats looking to follow their interests and passions
– How he overcame the language barrier to joining the local community
– How he started a gallery for foreign artists to showcase their work with the local community
– Some of the differences in local art culture from what he’s experienced in the west

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