Taipei's mayor, Ko Wen-je, has touted the benefits for new immigrants to Taiwan of learning the local language. Ko was speaking Friday as he spoke with new citizens who have been taking classes in the Minnan variant of Hokkien, also known as Hoklo or, simply, Taiwanese.
Ko said Taipei now has hundreds of classes aimed at helping new Taiwanese citizens settle in the country. He said there are now 500,000 naturalized citizens in the country, some 350,000 of them based in Taipei. Over 90% of these are mainland Chinese spouses of Taiwanese partners, with others coming from countries in Southeast Asia.
While Mandarin Chinese is the official language in Taiwan, Taiwanese is widely spoken colloquially and especially outside of the capital Taipei. Ko said learning Taiwanese has a number of benefits for new arrivals seeking to assimilate.
"Of the benefits of learning Minnan, number one is to have a better relationship with your mother-in-law. The second is to integrate more readily into the society. I've heard it said that the biggest benefit is being able to buy vegetables more cheaply when you go to the market," said Ko.
Ko's observations were backed up by Chen You-ni of Indonesia, who is married to a man from southern Taiwan. She said her relationship with her in-laws improved greatly after she learned to communicate with them in Taiwanese.
Source: Radio Taiwan International