Why Taiwanese Make Certain English Mistakes

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Greetings!  In this essay, I am going to tackle:

Why Taiwanese English students make some of the mistakes they do when speaking English.

I have lived in Taiwan for a long time… almost half my life. I’ve been teaching here (among many other things) for most of that time. In the years I’ve been teaching English (and speaking Chinese) in Taiwan, I’ve figured a few things out…

One: How F#$%^&N’ CRAZY English is! 
And how it often makes no sense if you’re not a native speaker (a lot of it doesn’t make sense to me sometimes and I AM a native speaker!).

Two: Why Taiwanese make some of the mistakes they do when speaking English.  This is what I will focus on here.

This information might also be helpful for English teachers here in Taiwan – as you will now know – if you didn’t already – why your English students make certain pronunciation mistakes.

For the Taiwanese English students reading this, you can now be more aware of your pronunciation and will also understand why- when speaking English– you may make certain mistakes. If you understand why you are making mistakes when speaking, you will be that much more vigilant. Then practice saying those words until you get it right.

Best to practice with a native speaker as most Taiwanese English teachers are the ones perpetuating these pronunciation mistakes.

For the record, back in the days when I was studying Chinese I realized there are certain sounds in Chinese we do not have in English. For example, 出去Chūqù (go out) for a lot of western speakers is a real pain in the butt! I would say Choo Choo or ChooChee!  Grrrr).

I understand your frustration when trying to learn new sounds.

So anyway here it is! Taiwanese English mistakes (a few of them anyway) explained!

While there are 44 sounds in English – (19 vowel sounds including 5 long vowels, 5 short vowels, 3 diphthongs, 2 ‘oo’ sounds, 4 ‘r’ controlled vowel sounds and 25 consonant sounds – I will write an essay about this in the future) –  there are 37 sounds in Chinese AND all Chinese words have only 3 kinds of endings.

Yes, that’s right.


I realized this whilst learning pinyin 拼音 (pinyin is Romanized Chinese) and changing Chinese characters into pinyin when I was studying Chinese back in the early 1990s. I also noticed this when speaking with locals who wanted to practice their English.

My local Taiwanese friends would call me PaulO.  I would say… no just Paul, thank you.  But they HAD to add that vowel sound.  I always wondered why.
I would listen to Taiwanese children sing the alphabet. When they got to HIJK…the following LMNOP turned into…  LOLOP!

What happened to M and N??

Anyway, Taiwanese make mistakes speaking English just like westerners make mistakes speaking Chinese.
(I mean 水餃[Shuǐjiǎo] dumplings and 睡覺 [shuìjiào] sleep Come on! REALLY! GAH!)

The three Chinese endings are:


1. an N sound as in 飯 fan (rice) 玩 wán (play), 笨 bèn (stupid).


2. an NG sound as in 王 Wang (king), 放fàng (put) and等děng (wait)


3. a vowel sound (a couple of these sounds we do not have in English. For example 熱 rè which means hot)

I will write a Chinese sentence about a person who sees a girl, thinks she is beautiful and wants to have tea with her. I want you to pay attention to the 拼音Hànyǔ Pīnyīn and the endings (in red).

小姐,你很漂亮 Xiǎo j, nǐn piào liang (Miss, you are beautiful).

你要不要 Nǐ yào bù yào (Do you want)

跟我一起喝茶 gēn wǒ yī qǐ hē chá (drink tea with me?)

See how it is precisely what I described above?

Endings are all N/NG/Vowel sounds.

Take ANY sentence in Chinese and change it to pinyin and you will be able to see (and hear!) only the N/NG/VOWEL SOUND.

This is why of the 26 letters in the alphabet, many Taiwanese often mispronounce the following:

F (ef) as efoo.

H (aich) as aichu

L (el) as ello (My name is Paul, but in Taiwan many call me Paulo or Pau)

S (es) as esih (yes sounds like yessih)

X (ex) as eckasih

Taiwanese also often mispronounce G, J, N, R, V, W, Z.

(G is my pet peeve… they use a sound we do not have in English.. the French u which sounds a bit like the ew in pew. The crazy thing is that Chinese does have a G sound 雞 jī (chicken)!

Words ending in M are mispronounced and N or NG are substituted. So handsome would be pronounced hansun. Some would be pronounced sun.

Which makes phrases like some flowers (many Taiwanese say sun flowers) confusing.

I will come back and edit this at a future date and add other bits.

For now, I hope you enjoyed this little read and I hope it helps!

Happy Learning!


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