In this episode, we’ve learned how to count from 11-99 in Taiwanese and talked about some cultural differences on thinking about numbers, counting age and using the calendar.
(These show notes use tables and rich formatting. Please visit the episode webpage for an optimal viewing experience.)
*Syllables that require tone changes are greyed out.
Note that the “one” and “two” are different from the form we’ve learned in the previous episode. For 11, 21, 31, 41, and so on, we use “it”, and for 12, 20, 22, 32, and so on, we use “jī”.
From 30 onwards, the numbers are quite regular:
Numbers are a great place where you can practice hearing the tone changes. You can also check out our Pronounce it Like a Pro series where we have an episode focused just on tone changes.
|--gue̍h||-month (as a suffix)
Pronunciation note: when you are talking about a specific month, “--gue̍h” is in the neutral tone unless followed by a date. This means the last syllable of the numbered month keeps its original tone, and then “--gue̍h” loses its original tone and is “neutralized” to a shorter and lighter syllable that often sounds similar to a third or fourth tone.
|It--gue̍h / Tsiann--gue̍h||January; the 1st month of the (lunar) calendar|
|Jī--gue̍h||February; the 2nd month of the (lunar) calendar|
|Tsa̍p-it--gue̍h||November; the 11th month of the (lunar) calendar|
|Lí kuí huè?||How old are you?|
|tsi̍t huè||1 year old|
|nn̄g huè||2 years old|
|jī-tsa̍p-gōo huè||25 years old|
|tsa̍p-jī senn-siùnn||the 12 animal zodiac
Culture note: in Taiwan, every year is assigned an animal sign as part of the zodiac. There are a total of 12 symbolic animals associated with a 12-year cycle. It is also used in India and Vietnam but some animals are different from the ones used in Taiwan.
1. “Tâi-uân huè” The Taiwanese way of counting age
Traditionally, when a baby is born, Taiwanese people start counting the age from one, not zero. Everyone ages one more year together during the Lunar New Year, which is usually late-January or in February. Nowadays, the western way of calculating age is used for official purposes.
2. “Tsa̍p-jī senn-siùnn” The 12-animal zodiac
Another interesting thing about the calendar year and talking about age in Taiwan is that every year is assigned an animal sign as part of the zodiac. There are a total of 12 symbolic animals associated with a 12-year cycle. When talking about age, instead of asking or saying how many years old someone is, some Taiwanese people would just use their zodiac sign.
3. Avoiding the number 9
In Taiwan, some people believe that any age ending in 9 will be a year where there’s a high risk of a major accident or disaster. So, they avoid celebrating a birthday when they’re 19, 29, 39 years old and so on.
For example at the age of 39, some people will say something like “38 + 1” years old. It’s just like at the restaurant, when the host wants to avoid saying 4 guests/people (“sì ê lâng” which sounds like “dead people” in Taiwanese), they will say “3 + 1” guests. Some others would just skip that year, and say they are already 40 years old.
Tone 8 is a High Stop tone. It starts in the high part of your voice, and then abruptly stops. You can think of it like in English, if someone tells you something shocking, and you can’t believe it, you might say, “Wut?!” (Shock!).
We’ve learned a few words that are Tone 8:
We encourage you to re-listen and pay special attention to “la̍k” and “tsa̍p” in this and the previous episode. You can also check out our workbook for some exercises on Tone 8.
Also, try to listen carefully to the numbers 16 “tsa̍p-la̍k” and 60 “la̍k-tsa̍p”, and see if you can hear the tone changes. Since the first Tone 8 syllable changes to a Tone 4, it should sound lower than the second syllable, which is in the original Tone 8.
If you want to know what tones the other syllables have changed to, we’ve marked them for you in our downloadable workbook. You'll also find additional vocabulary with characters, pronunciation notes, grammar explanations, culture tips, and fun exercises to help your practice. Go check it out!
Visit the Taiwanese Cultural Expo - November 2019 - Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Music Credit: TeknoAXE