How do correctly interpret Taiwanese during the talk?

Yes, the first story, simple and direct, is about how to correctly interpret Taiwanese during the talk.

I’m sure anyone reading this has had experience talking with Taiwanese people to some degree or another but, to be honest, I sometimes find it so difficult to talk to my fellow people. Why? Because we speak in a very indirect way. I’m not sure whether this talking style is what we’ve inherited from the colonizers, the Japanese, who are also infamously known for their ambiguous stove in speech, or that the concept of “indirectness equals politeness” has baked into our DNA. So, in the following, I’m going to guide you through some expressions commonly used by Taiwanese and dig into the true meanings hidden beneath. Let’s go!

We never intend to see you again when we say: see you next time for lunch/dinner!

When Taiwanese say :

👩下次一起吃飯啊! /下次約吃飯啊!

◼ Xià cì yīqǐ chīfàn a! /Xià cì yuē chīfàn a!

◼ Let’s eat together next time!

We usually don’t expect to receive the invitation for the next brunch, dinner, or whatever. (It sounds super insincere but it’s just the way we talk, so bear with us.) This expression is rather used as a greeting to hint to others “this is the end of the conversation.” People living in this culture will know exactly what the speakers are implying and will thus respond right away with a mirthless smile and “Sure! See you next time!” and waved goodbye.

We expect you to bring something to us when you come to visit.

👩不要帶東西,人來就好啦!

◼ Bùyào dài dōngxī, rén lái jiù hǎo la!

◼ Don’t bring anything, just come!

When Taiwanese invite you to visit them, do remember to bring something, this “something” ranges widely from a small box of cookies to a bottle of luxurious wine depending on how long you’ve known each other. But in general circumstances, a cookie box worth around NTD 200 from 7–11 or Family Mart will do. Something is better than nothing, right?

My answer is a firm “NO,” and you’d better not bring this up again.

👩 我考慮看看

◼ Wǒ kǎo lǜ kàn kàn

◼ Let me consider.

This is so commonly used as a refusal that it almost lost its literal meaning. When we don’t want to turn down others directly by saying: 我不要/ No, we say "let me consider" as a buffer to keep superficial peace. Because for us, refusing others directly is too intrusive and may be seen as "being impolite"; thus, by creating such ambiguity in our speech, we can successfully deliver our messages without making others look bad.

This article is just the tip of the iceberg, so stay tuned for more! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time! 😁

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