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My Taiwanese (Hokkien) adventure. From zero to fluency.


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Hello everyone,

I'm really fascinated by this language spoken by more than 70% of Taiwan's population so this log will track my progress in learning to speak and read it from zero to fluency. My first short term goal is to achieve B1 level on the European framework by Christmas so I have 92 days to go! :)

Using a variety of resources I aim to develop a vocabulary of about 3000 words in the next three months and generally, get to the point where I can tick all of the boxes as described in the guidelines.

I'll update this regularly.

Please wish me luck.

Any suggestions really welcome.


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The only advice i will give you is remove the word fluency from your post.


This word is the kindling for huge discussion on what is fluency. If you would like the forum to concentrate on your actual task of learning Taiwanese, I would remove this very charged word from your posts.


Having said all that i hope your learning journey goes well.

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Are you on Taiwan?


If not...if London, then are there a lot of Taiwanese speakers in Britain? There's a cookery show personality in Britain who's from Taiwan or at least her parents are and she speaks Hokkien. I remember seeing a show on YouTube with her and Chinese-American Ken Hom visiting China. Ken stopped off at his ancestral village of Kaiping (close to Taishan) and Ching (her names Ching something. I don't think we get her in the US. Unless the Food Network has it. Don't have cable. Might be on public (educational) TV. Don't watch that much either.) stopping off in Taiwan to visit her village and she speaking Hokkien with her relatives.


How are you going about it? Taking a class? Self-study?


Do they have classes in Taiwanese Minnan where you are?


If self-study, what learning materials?



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You should read Benny's posts for some tips. He went from zero to near native-like in Mandarin in just three months. You both have about the same time scale, so you should have no problem if you follow his methods. And the best part is that it doesn't require any studying either.

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Hello Everyone,

Day 2

Thank you very much for all your feedback and good wishes. I would like to get on with my task of learning Taiwanese Hokkien without getting too political and feel I need to answer a few of your questions as well. I started learning Mandarin in the beginning of 2009 and since then have benefited a lot from all the great advice available here. I do not consider Mandarin a dialect and do not feel it should be a pre-requisite for learning any other variety of Chinese. In fact, what could have been a much more popular course at SOAS was cut off at the knees when potential students were required to have a "base in Mandarin". Having said that, I am sure that having experience in any language where you get exposed to tones is useful. In my case, apart from Mandarin it's Cantonese and Tibetan. The word "fluency" in the title is not there to provoke a full blast discussion, just to define the parameters. For this reason, I mentioned B1 level (on the European Framework scale) and extrapolations can be made against a set of descriptors.

I am in London at the moment (though, frankly, I wish I were in Taiwan) :) and thanks to wonders of technology I can chat with willing victims any time. This brings to mind the confusion I usually encounter when asking for conversations in Taiwanese (or Hokkien). Unless I use the language itself, lots of people seem to assume I want to practise Mandarin as spoken or written in Taiwan. Here is one example answer:

抱歉,有人跟我說繁體中文也是台灣話= ="剛剛一瞬間想起來是台語 :)

I also run two Chinese language groups in London with a strong Taiwanese presence and hope I'll have more opportunity to practise face to face. There is also Youtube and MapleBoy of course...

Yes, I like Benny, very entertaining. Who would have thought, that in order to speak more you need to..., well, speak more. :)

I also like Mike and got his Taiwanese course, looking forward to practising more.

More updates coming soon...

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Burning the midnight oil here. :)

@ Kobo-Daishi: my approach is rather eclectic, making use of different online resources and technologies. Last night I put a plan together and gathered a few resources. Today I practised my tones from the Maryknoll book "Taiwanese book 1", learned some vocabulary, put it into Anki to revise tomorrow. The Maryknoll course is a bit dated but seems to be quite comprehensive and detailed. For structure I like another book: "Spoken Hokkien", published by SOAS, it gives short and clear notes on points of grammar, etc.

Other than that, I have dictionaries published by Maryknoll and the online version is great as well, I think. I'd like to be able to construct simple phrases and use them to talk about what I find interesting so I decided to use a Cantonese phrasebook I like, make up the sentences and ask the natives to correct the phrases or help me to put them together.

In due course, I'd like to make more use of Mike Campbell's Taiwanese course but it's early days yet. I enjoyed his Taiwanese podcasts already. Other than that, I'll find some interesting drama to watch and radio to listen to. I am hoping to find more willing speakers to practise with and could perhaps consider at least a few lessons but first would like to see how I get on over the next few days.

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Disclaimer: I am not a native speaker of any Min Nan variety.



@Kobo-Daishi: 無毋著, 但是我用 "會" 用"ㄟ",毋用"". Bô m̄-tio'h, tān-sī goá īng "會" īng "ㄟ", m̄ īng "の". Feels weird in this grammatical context, though I could totally imagine seeing it in real life.


Am improving my listening comprehension with the Singaporean show 《你是福建人吗?》 (YouTube link); there are a few mentions of the difference between Singaporean and Taiwanese Hokkien.

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That's a relief that I got it right.   :)


I'm a non-native Minnan speaker as well.


I usually only ever get into researching Taiwanese Minnan after someone starts a thread about it and then I pore over everything available on the Internet for a few days until something else pulls me away. Slowly and slowly I learn more and more about the language.


Out of curiousity, are you Mike Campbell of Glossika?



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BTW, are any Taiwanese TV shows entirely in Taiwanese? 

Usually there's at least one drama on 大愛 (Da Ai), which is the TV station run by 慈濟 (Tzu Chi Foundation) that's in Taiwanese.
大愛 youtube page
Here's a drama 
The TV channel 民視 (Formosa TV) tries to be entirely in Taiwanese, including the news.
民視新聞頻道 FTVNEWS  youtube
民視戲劇頻道 FTVDRAMA youtube
But the best dramas are 布袋戲, or glove puppetry. I remember watching them as a child. The most popular one now is 霹靂布袋戲. Disks are released and can be bought at stores like 7-11. 
I had some links to streaming radio stations.. let me see...
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The only two streaming radio stations I have links to are:






The news that's broadcast every hour is a combination of Taiwanese and Mandarin.


I also posted some resources here



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I just remembered.. I have a spotify playlist of Taiwanese music


臺語 Taiwanese


It's more like a library than a playlist. Old stuff, new stuff, ballads, rock.. probably better than the radio. I add more songs as I find them.


anyway, back to the OP



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- Music: there's also 江惠. I was told she's the Deng Lijun of Taiwanese. Other Taiwanese musicians also make the occasional song in Taiwanese.
- Reading: have you found the Minnan Wikipedia yet?

- TV: I used to watch The Talking Show, political talk show entirely in Taiwanese. If you're interested in Taiwanese politics, this one is great.

- Search these forums a bit, there have been other Taiwanese learners in the past and some useful links have been posted.

And nice to meet a fellow Maryknoll user :-) Do you also have the cd's? They're even more oldschool, made from tapes. I think the course is still good though, dated though it is.

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Day 3

Wow! Hello everyone.

So many interesting things to explore. :)

@ yst: Thank you very much for your suggestions. When I looked last time, a couple of years ago I could not find that many dramas or music to watch or tom listen to. I really like this show:

霹靂布袋戲 and have found a couple of tv broadcasts online as well.

@OneEye: yes, I have known Chthonic for a couple of years now, missed a chance to see them in the UK. They are quite heavy :) I enjoyed one of their more popular tunes which they sung in Hokkien. They also seem to use interesting traditional instruments from time to time. Thank you very much for your good wishes. Yes, I know it's not an easy language to learn and I want to practise it because I find it fascinating on so many levels.

@ Lu: 江惠 - I have known about this lady for a couple of years also, thank you for bringing her back to my attention. Her songs seem to put me in a relaxed mood after I've done my study.

There is also Mr Five Hundred 伍佰 of course, who quite often rocks in Taiwanese. I'll wait to catch up on The Talking Show until I go to Taiwan next, should be very fascinating. I have been lurking around these forums for quite a few years now and always search for interesting topics. I am very happy, that I got so many new and interesting suggestions. I also like the Maryknoll books (and CDs), as well as their dictionaries. In fact, I probably have all the materials for learning Taiwanese published by them. When I get into the study mode they remind me of the old times, when in the 70's I became really interested in learning languages. They are a bit like the DeFrancis books for learning Mandarin. Minnan Wikipedia - HaHa, I did find it and aspire to make more use of it once I advance in my learning. To become more proficient in reading POJ I'm using an audio Bible with corresponding text: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-bible-society-in-taiwan/id465344861?mt=8

More updates coming soon. :)

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