Ep18: How about we speak in Taiwanese? | Lán lâi kóng Tâi-gí, hó--bô? 咱來講台語, 好無?

Ep18: How about we speak in Taiwanese? | Lán lâi kóng Tâi-gí, hó--bô? 咱來講台語, 好無?

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Feb 21 is International Mother Language Day. In this episode, we’ve talked about language learning and words to describe someone’s fluency.

(These show notes use tables and rich formatting. Please visit the episode webpage for an optimal viewing experience.)

Lí kám tsai-iánn bîn-á-tsài sī siánn-mih ji̍t-tsí? Do you know what day tomorrow is?
Sè-kài Bú-gí-ji̍t International Mother Language Day
Guá teh o̍h Tâi-gí. I’m learning Taiwanese.
I o̍h Kheh-uē, guá o̍h Tâi-gí. She’s learning Hakka. I’m learning Taiwanese.
tha̍k to read, to study, or to read something aloud
Guá teh tha̍k Tâi-gí. I’m studying Taiwanese.
I teh tha̍k tāi-ha̍k. She is studying at university.
I kākáu-á” tha̍k tsòkâu-á”. He read the word “dog” as the word “monkey”.
ha̍k-si̍p learning (formal learning through study and practice); to learn

Usage note:ha̍k-si̍p” is a more formal and literary term to say “learning”. The common word is “o̍h”.

Ha̍k-si̍p Tâi-gí tha̍k-siá ài sî-kan. Learning to read and write Taiwanese requires time.
Lí Tâi-í-king o̍h guā---ah? How long have you been learning Taiwanese?
Guá Tâi-í-king o̍h sann-kò-gue̍h--ah. I’ve already been learning Taiwanese for 3 months.
í-king already
I kū-khai-sí o̍h Ì-tāi-lī-gí. She started learning Italian last year.
gí-giân kau-uānn to have a language exchange
Guá ta̍k lé-pài hām pîng-gí-giân kau-uānn nn̄g tiám-tsing. I do language exchange with my friend for two hours every week.
bē-bái not bad, impressive
Lí ê Ing-bē-bái! Your English is not bad (= quite good)!
gâu competent and skillful; to be good at sth
Lí tsin gâu kóng Tâi-gí! You speak Taiwanese very well!
Lí m̄-kam-hiâm. No need to be so kind!

Culture note: In Taiwanese culture, when people are given a compliment, the most common, first reaction is to deny and say something like “--lah” (not at all). It’s a way to be humble. And then it’s often followed by “lí m̄-kam-hiâm”, which can be roughly translated as: “Thank you for being so kind and for not complaining about how bad it is.”

--lah! Iah-koh teh o̍h. No, not really. I’m still learning.
iah-koh still
lī-hāi serious, violent; amazing, cool
Tíng lé-pài ê hong-thai tsiânn lī-hāi. Last week’s typhoon was terrible!
Lí tsiok lī-hāi, ē-hiáu kóng Tâi-gí, koh ē-hiáu kóng Kheh-gí! Wow, you’re amazing! You can speak both Taiwanese and Hakka.
ē-hiáu to be able to, to know how to

Note: We also talk about the helping verb “ē-hiáu” and the names for several languages in ep 11 of our Newbie podcast.

I Ji̍t-pún-kóng kah tsin hó. He spoke Japanese very well.
I kóng liáu tsin hó. He spoke very well.
liàn-tńg fluent
I Tâi-kóng kah tsin liàn-tńg He speaks Taiwanese fluently.
siah-siah-kiò really fluent; very thorough and efficient at doing something
I Tâi-kóng kah siah-siah-kiò! He speaks Taiwanese really fluently.
Guá (ê) Huâ-kóng liáu hó. I don’t speak Mandarin very well.
Guá (ê) Huâ-kóng bē liàn-tńg. I don’t speak Mandarin fluently; I speak Mandarin haltingly.
I (ê) Ing-kóng kah li-li-lak-lak. She speaks broken English. She speaks English poorly.
li-li-lak-lak scattered, disorganized
Lán lâi kóng Tâi-gí, hó--bô? How about we speak in Taiwanese?
Guá siūnn-beh liān Tâi-gí. Lán lâi kóng Tâi-gí! I would like to practice Taiwanese. Let's use it!
liān to practice or to drill

*Syllables that have been greyed out require a tone change

For more about language learning and describing fluency, be sure to check out our workbook. It also gives you some additional vocabulary, culture and grammar explanations, and great exercises to reinforce what you’ve learned in this episode.


Our One Bite Challenge this week is a common Taiwanese saying related to learning:

Sann ji̍t liū, peh tsiūnn tshiū.

Let’s break down the sentence:

sann three
ji̍t / li̍t day
no, without
liū to review; the verb “liū” originally means to heat up in a steamer or reheat something you’ve cooked before.
peh to climb
tsiūnn to get on, to go up
tshiū tree

The first part “sann ji̍t liū” literally means “three days without reviewing”. The second part “peh tsiūnn tshiū” literally means “climb up a tree”. Here it is a metaphor to say how your knowledge or what you’ve learned will disappear and the word “tshiū” is used to rhyme with “liū”.

Putting together, this saying means “if you go three days without review, you’ll lose what you’ve learned.”

Learning a language requires a lot of self-discipline. It’s best to practice everyday, even just for a few minutes to refresh your memory. We hope your Taiwanese is getting better by the day!

Music Credit: TeknoAXE

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