Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Taiwan. Since the 1940's, Mandarin has been the language of instruction in Taiwan's schools, with the result that Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in Taiwan.
But Mandarin is not the only language spoken in Taiwan. Many people also speak Taiwanese, also known as Hokkien. Other languages include Hakka, Formosan, and Japanese.
Taiwan Mandarin & China Mandarin
The Mandarin of Taiwan differs from the Mandarin of Mainland China in several ways. Most notably, Taiwan uses traditional Chinese characters, as opposed to China's simplified characters.
Taiwan also uses a different phonetic system from that of Mainland China. The phonetic system used in Taiwan is called Zhuyin Fuhao or Bopomofo. It is a set of 37 symbols which represent the various sounds of spoken Mandarin. These symbols are based on Chinese characters.
Zhuyin Fuhao is used to teach school children how to pronounce Chinese characters. It is used in elementary school textbooks up to about grade four.
Taiwan Mandarin has many words and phrases that are not used in Mainland China. For example, the word for "bicycle" is 腳踏車 / 脚踏车 (jiǎotàchē) in Taiwan, and自行車 / 自行车 (zìxíngchē) in China.
The grammar of Taiwan Mandarin can also be different from the grammar of Mainland China. For example, the particle 了 (le), when used as a past tense marker, is often doubled in Mainland China, but used as a single sentence suffix in Taiwan.
Spoken Taiwan Mandarin
There are also differences between the spoken Mandarin of Taiwan and the spoken Mandarin of Mainland China. The use of the Beijing retroflex "r" sound is rarely heard in Taiwan, and Pinyin "r" sounds are often pronounced as an "l" sound in Taiwan.
Despite these differences, people from China have little trouble communicating with people from Taiwan. But the language usage can present small problems, similar to the difficulties that arise between speakers of American English and speakers of British English.