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(I'm not going to use the hanzi or even proper pinyin for some terms because I only know them from speaking as an absolute beginning learner.)

In Mainland China the currency is the "yuan" but in practice nobody calls it that. Instead they say "kwai".

I've just arrived by ferry in Taiwan from China and here the currency is the "New Taiwan Dollar".

Should I refer to it by the term "yuan", "kwai", or by an adaptation of the English word, something like "dola"?


Bonus: What about when referring to the Old Taiwan Dollar between 1946-49 or the Taiwan Yen during the time under Japanese rule?

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I imagine people just say "kuai" in practice, but you can differentiate by saying 台币 = taibi (analogous to the mainland 人民币 = renminbi). –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jan 25 at 19:34
    
@StumpyJoePete: Yes I'm not sure if "kuai" is 20th century slang like "buck" is for "dollar" or if it's what Chinese have called their money for centuries, so I couldn't guess if Taiwan and China would use the same term since it seemed to be informal to me. –  hippietrail Jan 25 at 19:35
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@hippietrail I don't think it's an invention in 20th century, this should be originated from 一块银元 (银元 is just a solid block of silver and thus modified by 块). We can still say 20块人民币 and 20块新台币 today. The local inhabitants of Chinese origin in Malaysia and Singapore also say . Taiwanese reformed their currency in 1970s or so, and thus the current currency is also called 新台币. –  user58955 Jan 25 at 21:40
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As many have said the "proper" way to refer to the currency of Taiwan is 新台币 (Xīn tái bì) which is literally broken down to 新 (Xīn) = New and 台币 (tái bì) = Taiwan Dollars

Old Taiwan dollars are referred to as 舊臺幣* (旧台币) (jiù tái bì)

However you would only refer to them by these proper names when dealing with multiple currencies. When referring to local currency you would use 块, 毛, 半 (Kuài, máo, bàn).


块 Kuài

Refers to 1 unit of currency relative to where you are. So 一块 (Yī kuài) in Australia refers to $1 AUD, in Singapore refers to $1 SGD, in the UK refers to £1 GBP, and in Taiwan refers to $1 TWD.

Now because you're in Taiwan you won't be using much more then 块 Kuài because the half dollar is rarely used. But please have a read since you seem to travel a lot and it will be helpful to know:

毛 Máo

Refers to 10's of cents so 一块五毛 (Yī kuài wǔ máo) would be $1.50 in AUD, $1.50 SGD, £1.50 in GBP, etc ...

半 bàn

Now 半 (bàn) isn't a unit of currency but a modifier whose value is equal to half of a single unit of its parent value. Now that seems a little confusing at first but it's the same as saying "and a half" in English. So let's move on to some full prices of some items:
六块九毛半 (Liù kuài jiǔ máo bàn) = $6.95
一百八十九块半 (Yī bǎi bā shí jiǔ kuài bàn) = $189.50


Note: 块毛半 (Kuài máo bàn) only works for currencies that use whole values. Under the older systems of currency like the old British system of 12 pence to a shilling, 20 shillings to a pound this would not work and you would have to use the formal names of each unit.

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Yes, people use ‘kuài’ in conversation, as in ‘yī qiān duō kuài’ (over 1,000 NT$). You can also add ‘qián’ to make it clear you’re talking about amounts of money: ‘wŭ shí kuài qián’ (50 NT$).

You might want to use ‘(xīn) tái bì’ when changing money, as in ‘qĭng gĕi wŏ tái bì’ (please give me Taiwan dollars). I don’t know what was used in previous periods, but here are some ways to refer to other currencies:

  • mĕi jīn ‘American dollars’
  • rì bì ‘Japanese yen’
  • găng bì ‘Hong Kong dollars’
  • yīng bàng ‘British pounds’

These are from a Mandarin textbook put out by TLI, a language school in Taiwan. Be careful with the tone on ‘tái’ - in some contexts this can be confused with the falling tone ‘tài’ referring to Thailand/Thai money. But if you’re already in Taiwan, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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In the current mainland usage, 币 is largely replaced with 元. Basically anything called `dollar' is called 元, such as 美元, 港元, 澳大利亚元. (美金 is a historical name because the US dollar was pegged to gold, and can still be heard today.) Japanese call their currency yen and Koreans won, both correspond to the Chinese character 圆, so they are called 日元(or 日圆) and 韩元(or 韩圆) as well. –  user58955 Jan 26 at 19:32
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kuai4 (块) is a generic word that does not say anything about the money's currency. So regardless of the currency you can always use kuai4.

New Taiwan Dollar is either tai2 bi4 (台币) or xin1 tai2 bi4 (新台币) according to dictionaries. (I've never used them so I'm not sure.)

http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php?page=worddict&wdrst=0&wdqb=New+Taiwan+Dollar

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That would make it different to "bucks" in English, which can only be used for dollars. At least US dollars and Australian dollars. It can't be used for other currencies such as euro, pounds, yen, etc. –  hippietrail Jan 26 at 15:55
    
@hippietrail I was happy walking away until seeing this but now I have to comment and put my answer in the ring, also "Bucks" still isn't widely excepted in Australia and you're right it wouldn't work in other currencies such as euro, pounds, yen, etc. (referring to them as Bucks) it just seems to be a misconception of English on Niklas's behalf. –  50-3 Jan 27 at 2:31
    
@50-3: That's funny because I've used and heard "bucks" for the forty six years years I've been an Australian living in four different states of the country. –  hippietrail Jan 27 at 2:38
    
@hippietrail not saying it's not said and used but commonly the currency is implied eg. That'll be $17.50 mate –  50-3 Jan 27 at 2:43
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@hippietrail asked an American friend once when he used it. He said sure it can be used for any currency, but did not seem overly sure about it. I'll consider asking this question on the English SE :) –  Niklas Berglund Jan 27 at 8:05
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To make a distinction between the two, people in China and Taiwan refer to it as 台币 tai2 bi4 。

For general conversation, just use 块.

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one might want to distinct currency in general conversation as well –  Niklas Berglund Jan 27 at 8:00
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