How is the Chinese language called in Taiwan?

I feel it is a very political issue.
In my knowledge, there are the terms 華語, 國語, 普通話, even "Chinese dialect".

In this context, what is the most common word used by Taiwanese people to refer to "the Chinese language"? (For instance in a politically neutral context where they would like to say: "This foreigner speaks Chinese very well.")

In my impression, 中文 is the most "neutral" term.

  • Which Chinese language are you thinking of, please? Commented Feb 29 at 21:57

4 Answers 4


it is a very political issue

bien sûr lah 😸

the democratic progressive party has a strong de-sinicization (去中化 ) tendency, here’re some inspiring observations:

the national academy for educational research 國家教育研究院, of taiwan 🇹🇼 has a page:

Taiwan Benchmarks for the Chinese Language (臺灣華語文能力基準)

that, chinese language —> 華語文

another page 十二年國教課程綱要

read it carefully, one would find:

  • 語文領域-本土語文(閩東語文)
  • 語文領域-臺灣手語
  • 語文領域-新住民語文
  • 語文領域-本土語文(原住民族語文)
  • 語文領域-本土語文(客家語文)
  • 語文領域-本土語文(閩南語文)
  • 語文領域-英語文、第二外國語文
  • 語文領域-國語文

the last one “國語文” referred to mandarin (spoken language) & han-chinese (written language)

or, this page 國語辭典

which stated “主要提供漢語、漢字研究者使用”

briefly: the term “中文” is not preferred in taiwan, under dpp 🙀 one better say “華語”, “國語”, “漢語” for spoken aspect of chinese language; then “華文”, “國文”, “漢字” for the written aspect of chinese language 😹

  • Oh, it might be the 中 (中國) in 中文 that cause problem :'). As a foreigner, I feel weird to say 國語, and the term 華語... never used it before
    – Starckman
    Commented Feb 27 at 10:51
  • 1
    @Starckman, “ the 中 (中國) in 中文 that cause problem” bingo 😸 you get it 😸 it’ won’t be weird, when you read news, articles from hong kong, taiwan & south east asia daily 😹 actually, it’s quite common, using “華” in lieu of “中”, “中國” Commented Feb 27 at 11:30

中文 (The written and spoken Chinese language) and 華語 /漢語 (The spoken Chinese language) are neutral. All are used in Mainland China and Taiwan

The difference:

  • 中文口語 (Spoken Chinese language) is called 普通话 (the commonly spoken language) in Mainland China

  • 中文口語 (Spoken Chinese language) is called 國語 (the National language) in Taiwan

  • Strictly speaking, 普通话 and 國語 should be called The spoken Mandarin language, which happens to be the current official language of the country, since 中文口語 includes all the Chinese dialects, for example, Cantonese is also a Chinese spoken language. Mandarin itself is also a Chinese dialect

Both Mainland China and Taiwan call their written Chinese 中文

  • "中文口語 (Spoken Chinese language) is called 國語 (the National language) in Taiwan" I had the impression that 國語 to the Chinese learned in Taiwanese school system
    – Starckman
    Commented Feb 27 at 9:29
  • 1
    國語 is limited to "the spoken Chinese language". Both Mainland China and Taiwan call their written Chinese 中文"
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Feb 27 at 9:31

The official spoken language in Taiwan is called "國語(national language)", administered by the Ministry of Education. In school, the student studies "中文/國文(Chinese literature), learns and reads "中國字(Chinese characters)", and writes using "中文繁體字(original/non-simplified Chinese characters).

At home, the most prevalent spoken language is "閩南話/語", and the next is "客家話", both are Chinese dialects and can be lumped into "台灣話". The rest of the Chinese originals in Taiwan, who came after the Communists took over China, speak a variety of Chinese dialects (大陸地方話), which are often lumped together as "外省話".

In general, Taiwanese refer to "華語" as the spoken language of Chinese nationals residing abroad (海外華人/僑胞, usually resided in SE Asia); and "普通话" as the current official spoken language of Chinese mainlanders. "漢文" is often referred to as the Chinese language/literature taught in Taiwan before the occupation of Taiwan by Japan, and is now reserved for academics and researchers who have interest in ancient Chinese cultures.


What is the word used by people in Taiwan to refer to "the Chinese language"?

The official language in Taiwan is standardized by the government of ROC (Republic of China, 1912 - present). The official language is called 國語 and the written form (or written language) is 國文.

The English word for 國語 (The National Language) is Mandarin but that word has a much longer history than 國語. See wiki mandarin

(MANDARIN has nothing to do with 满清, 满州國, 满大人, whatsoever)

A language is primarily a historical and ethnic matter. The Chinese language would be more objectively called 漢語 or 汉语 (Han Languages) which is a group of languages or dialects. 國語 (普通话) is just a standardized (or normalized) dialect, no more, no less.

Is 中文 the most "neutral" term for the name of the Chinese language? Not really. It depends on what you mean by the word 中文.

(1) 中文 is an abbreviation of 中华语言文字 (中华, 华夏, 汉民族)

(2) 中文 is an abbreviation of 中国语言文字 (中, 中原, excluding 四夷,BC 1000)

(3) 中文 is an abbreviation of 中国语言文字 (中, 中国, 中华人民共和国 1949, PRC, not ROC)

  • 1
    (Republic of China, 1912-2024) in your first sentence sounds like 2024 is the last year of the ROC. As far a I know, the ROC is alive and well and I hope she will live on for a long, long time.
    – monalisa
    Commented Feb 28 at 0:58
  • Many people think it was substituted by another one in 1949.
    – PdotWang
    Commented Feb 28 at 1:05
  • 1
    I understand that. But when you put 1912-2024, it means the ROC ends in 2024, which clearly is not going to happen. How about "Republic of China 1912-present" ?
    – monalisa
    Commented Feb 28 at 4:32
  • 1
    Thanks for the advice
    – PdotWang
    Commented Feb 28 at 7:22

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