Chinese is such an archaic language, it will be very difficult

Learning Taiwanese tones are the same as with Mandarin, you learn them intuitively with time. It just takes a lot more time. Seems like Glossika could speed the process. But the payback on the effort is huge. Taiwanese is chock-full of hilarious 俗語’s, ribald jokes, creative swear words, subtle and colorful stuff that just doesn’t seem to get said in respectable Mandarin. My neighbor’s bulldozer slid off the side of the hill into a muck pond last week. I watched and harassed him for an hour and learned so many great new words! Mandarin is important, I need it for technical and engineering stuff. But Taiwanese is a hoot. Harder to learn but worth it. After Mandarin and if you have time. Highly recommended.


I still remember the first one someone taught me, they thought it was hilarious to hear me say it. tua-tng ko sio-tng

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Sorry, didn’t mean it to imply that swear words were a reason to learn Taiwanese. You can learn a lot about traditional Taiwanese culture by learning Taiwanese (and I assume Hakka).


I think 俗語’s are way more fun and interesting than 成語’s (which seem to mostly be based on stuffy historical stuff). It’s the real reason I started on Taiwanese.


My Taiwanese sucks, but I’ve always liked the 歪嘴雞食好米 one.


Ok, I feel like I need to rehash some of the things I’ve mentioned on forumosa before.

When the Manchu sacked Beijing in 1644, people of Beijing spoke the Mandarin (官話) of the time, the Chinese Koine, which was based on the Nanjing accent, since Ming was founded by a group of people from the south, and the first capital of Ming was Nanjing.

The Nanjing accent, which is a part of the Wu branch, retained many features of Middle Chinese. The Chinese Koine at the time still retained most checked (entering) tones, and in many ways to was more similar to Cantonese and Taigi than Mandarin today.

When the Ming dynasty collapsed, Europeans are already in Asia. In 1644, the Dutch were still operating from Taiwan. There have been a couple of prominent European missionaries in Ming court, such as Matteo Ricci, Ferdinand Verbiest and Johann Adam Schall von Bell. Many of them transitioned over to work for the Manchus when they took over.

Many early romanizations of Chinese cities were made by these early christian missionaries. They’ve also left extensive record of Mandarin spoken in Beijing during the interim period between Ming and Qing dynasties.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, even in 1815 most people in Beijing still spoke the Chinese Koine in official settings, even though plenty of them spoke the predecessor of today’s Mandarin in private.

This is because the Manchurians forced relocated Beijing’s Han residence within 5 km of the imperial city, and made the so called “inner city” exclusive to Manchurians. However, those in the inner city soon found out that they had to pick up Chinese to conduct daily business, and soon developed their own heavily Manchurian influenced Pekingese flavor. The inner city Pekingese and the outer city Pekingese was divided by caste. The Manchu and elites living in the inner city spoke a Manchurian-Chinese pidgin. Most people living in the outer city still spoke the old Pekingese. This was still the case when Robert Morrison wrote his Chinese dictionary in 1815. Plenty of Manchu officials stationed around the country came straight out of the inner city. They began influencing people outside of Beijing to pick up the inner city Pekingese as the new official language. Overtime, people living in the outer city started to switch to the language of the higher caste to gain more prestige. That’s how we ended up with a full Mandarin takeover in areas around Beijing by the early 1900s.

The influence of Manchurian and Mongolian is clear in today’s Mandarin. Using 的 or 底 as the possessive marker is obviously borrowed either from Manchurian or Mongolian, which uses the -d or -de suffix to denote locative or dative case. That somehow is borrowed into the inner city Pekingese to function as the possessive marker.

The original possessive in Middle Chinese would be 其 (kê), which became 嘅 (ge3) in Cantonese, 個 or 个 (ke) in Hakka, and 个 or 兮 (ê) in Taigi.

Manchurian language lacks the /e/ vowel sound.

Manchurian vowel chart.

Compare that to Mandarin’s vowel chart.

Now compare that to languages more similar to Middle Chinese, such as Cantonese and Taigi, both of which have the /e/ vowel.



Other phonology influences include introduction of /f/ fricative to Chinese. This sound doesn’t exist in Middle Chinese.

Some other Mongolian/Manchurian influences in today’s Mandarin aside from the phonological changes and the possessive marker are as follows:

  1. Using 白 to describe getting something for free unfairly. For example 白吃白喝. From baibi, which means empty, or to no avail. This usage was probably borrowed from Mongolian. I think it was first attested in Ming novels.

  2. 挺 as a way to say very. For example: 挺好的. Borrowed from Manchurian ten, meaning very.

  3. 馬馬虎虎 as Chabudou attitude. Borrowed from Manchurian lalahuhu.

  4. 巴不得 as can’t even. Probably borrowed from Mongolian. It is similar to the Manchurian word bɑhɑci with the same meaning. Earliest usage seen in Ming novels.

  5. 彆扭 as in awkward. Borrowed from Manchurian ganiu, meaning special. No attested usage before the Qing dynasty.

  6. 邋遢 as in unkempt. Likely borrowed from Mongolian. Manchurian has a word lata with the same meaning. Earliest usage was late Ming, early Qing.

There’re tons more… but I doubt anyone is reading by this point…


Au contraire. Fascinating stuff!


That’s not can’t even, that’s more like would rather.


I wonder what that was like. Any dialects supposed to be closer to it or other research?

Difficult to learn but possible.

There’s levels of fluent-ness (my word).

Not hard to get to the daily life level that covers most of every day needs and communication. You might have to pick through writing/reading with the help of Pleco and Translate but certainly do-able. This level makes living in Taiwan a breeze

Then there are other levels. This is where it starts getting serious.

Ever attended local training, educational sessions, or meetings? Well now we’re talking a whole new level of toughness. You’d need to spend all day for years and years to even scratch the surface.

Slide after slide crammed with Chinese characters. The brain shuts down. You might start picking through that first few characters only. After 30 min you’re not registering anything the speaker is saying.

People throw around the word “fluent” loosely.

I cringe when locals do the “你中文很好” thing. No really it’s not, and you’re pissing me off saying it

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It does in Cantonese and Hakka though.

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Labial fricatives such as f and even v in Hakka didn’t appear until Late Middle Chinese, which would be late Ming or early Qing.

How did Cantonese and Hakka pick it up when there so distant from Beijing? And how come Daigi missed it?

You should take your compliments where you can get them. It’s kind of like when they say I look like George Clooney. :sunglasses:


The Hakka started out in the north and gradually migrated south. That’s why they’re called 客家人(guest families).

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But by the Ming they were already settled South. Some were already in Taiwan.

Don’t even trip. Similar things have happened to me in other online settings. Just be careful what you state as fact.

Hakka is actually made up of waves of migrations across different eras from different Northern regions, so they don’t all sound the same.

They also don’t have any kind of significant presence in Taiwan before mid-Qing. Most Han Chinese in Taiwan at the time were either introduced to Taiwan by the Dutch or followed Koxinga. Those who came during the Dutch era probably came in several waves, as the Dutch killed off a bunch of them during the Gouqua Faet rebellion. They were also prominently from coastal Minnan regions. Koxinga had some Hakka generals and soldiers, but it’s pretty obvious the majority of his followers were also from coastal Minnan regions.

Hakka immigrants were systematically introduced to Taiwan by the Qing dynasty for a while after the Tsu It-kuì rebellion. Many of the Hakka leaders eventually defected to the Qing army, and the Qing government realized that pitting Hakka and Holo against one another reduces the risk of rebellion. Aside from encouraging Hakka immigration in that era, Holo immigration were even more strictly clamped down. That’s when Hakka people increased to make up about 15% of Taiwan’s total Han Chinese population.

Although I still have no idea why Hakka and Cantonese both picked up the p to f sound change. This sound change is more complete in Cantonese, and Hakka is just half way there.

For example, the following are a few characters that had a /p/ or /pʰ/ initial in Middle Chinese:

飯: Hakka - pʰan, Holo - pn̄g, Cantonese - fan, Korean - ban
吠: Hakka - pʰui or pʰou, Holo - puī, Cantonese - fai, Korean - pye
肥: Hakka - pʰui or pʰi, Holo - puî, Cantonese - fei, Korean - bi

It is possible that Cantonese picked up the p→f change because Guangdong was the prominent sea port throughout Qing dynasty, and the Manchu officials introduced that change. That eventually began to spread to the Hakka languages in Guangdong as well.


Mandarin is archaic perhaps in the sense that you can not construct the words through an alphabet. But it is very advanced in the sense that there is no conjugation of verbs and no tenses in the language

I could imagine if aliens were to come to earth they would be speaking Mandarin