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Differences Between Mainland Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin

YANGYANG CHENG | JANUARY 19, 2017

In our Youtube Live hangout, we answered a very popular question we often get from our students: What are the major differences between Mainland Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin?



Script Differences: 


Mainland Mandarin is written with simplified characters, whereas Taiwanese Mandarin uses traditional characters. Sentences follow the same grammartical structure, but some words are written with different characters.  They can look very different, for example:




However, they share about 75% of the same characters! :)


Accent Differences:


In Mainland Mandarin, you'll hear:

  • zhi
  • chi
  • shi
  • 垃圾 (lā jī)
  • + 儿 (er) 'erhua' accent/retroflex
  • More neutral tones: 先生 (xiān sheng),漂亮 (piào liang),东西 (dōng xi)

In Taiwanese Mandarin, you'll hear:

  • zi
  • ci
  • si
  • 垃圾 (lè sè)
  • no retroflex
  • Neutral tones are not always used: 先生 (xiān shēng),漂亮 (piào liàng),东西 (dōng xī)

Vocab Differences (Two Kinds)


Completely different words for the same terms:


<table border="3" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" style="width:500px;"> <tbody> <tr> <th> English: </th> <th> Mainland: </th> <th> Taiwanese: </th> </tr> </tbody> <tbody> <tr> <td> Potato </td> <td> 土豆 (tǔ dòu) </td> <td> 马铃薯 (mǎ líng shǔ) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Pineapple </td> <td> 菠萝 (bō luó) </td> <td> 凤梨 (fèng lí) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Bicycle </td> <td> 自行车 (zì xíng chē) </td> <td> 脚踏车(jiǎo tà chē) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Taxi </td> <td> 出租车(chū zū chē) </td> <td> 计程车 (jì chéng chē) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Subway </td> <td> 地铁 (dì tiě)  </td> <td> 捷运 (jié yùn) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Boxed meal </td> <td> 盒饭 (hé fàn) </td> <td> 便当 (biàn dāng) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Tomato </td> <td> 西红柿 (xī hóng shì) </td> <td> 番茄 (fān qié) </td> </tr> </tbody> </table>

Words are understandable but used in different ways:


<table border="3" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" style="width:500px;"> <tbody> <tr> <th> English: </th> <th> Mainland: </th> <th> Taiwanese: </th> </tr> </tbody> <tbody> <tr> <td> You're welcome/no need to thank me </td> <td> 不用谢 (bú yòng xiè) </td> <td> 不会 (bú huì) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Service person / Miss /Mister </td> <td> 服务员 (fù wù yuán) </td> <td>

小姐/ (xiǎo jiě) /

先生 (xiān shēng)

</td> </tr> <tr> <td> People of other nationalities </td> <td>

老外 (lǎo wài)

</td> <td> 外国人 (wài guó rén) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Understand </td> <td> 明白 (míng bái) </td> <td> 了解 (liǎo jiě) </td> </tr> <tr> <td> Girl / Boy </td> <td> 女孩儿/男孩儿 (nǚ hái (r) / nán hái (r)) </td> <td> 女生/男生 (nǚ shēng / nán shēng) </td> </tr> </tbody> </table>

What do you think are the biggest differences in Mainland Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin? Share with us in the comments below! :)