When I’m on a train and hear older men yelling into their cell phones or near a construction area and I hear young guys yelling at each other with red binlang juice flying from their stained teeth, I’m certain they are speaking what they believe is Taiwanese.
I find myself wondering about the draw of this speech.
Most of my younger colleagues and contacts admit they don’t speak Taiwanese very well, and when they do, it’s only to their elders. Although, some of the younger guys speak it to each other as if they are part of a secret brotherhood.
While the official language (school, government, and media) is Mandarin (the most spoken language in the world), and while the surest way to bolster your pocket book is to have a good grasp of English (second most spoken language in the world), I am puzzled as to the point of perpetuating the “Taiwanese” language.
I can understand the sense of camaraderie and community that may stem from it. But does this come at a price?
Knowing firsthand that certain English accents in the US and the UK are seen as “uneducated” or “ignorant”, does the same hold true for a “Taiwanese” Mandarin accent?
A child raised in Taiwan to learn Mandarin and English would be able to communicate with the entire industrialized world as adults, as Mandarin and English are the “lingua franca” in the East and West, respectively. On paper, this seems like an incredible advantage for the future Taiwanese government and business leaders. If these same children were raised with “Taiwanese” in the home, would they be at a disadvantage?
Though leaning towards “YES”, I can’t pretend to have the answer. I’m only saying these questions have been on my mind since moving here.