A Ghanaian-Taiwanese in the military service

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From Chau Wu:


The young man's name is Âng Te̍k (T.) / Hung Tse (M.)  洪 澤. First the background.  His father came from Ghana, his mother is Taiwanese, and he was cared for by his maternal grandmother.  Therefore, he speaks fluent Taiwanese.  我是正港台灣囝仔 Góa sī chiàn-káng Tâi-oân gíná (I am [a] genuine Taiwanese child).

Here's a video of his speech.  It is very short (30 sec). 

He starts off with a greeting in a Ghanaian language.  The rest is in Taiwanese.  Boy!  Does he speak perfect Taiwanese!  [Chau's assessment.]

There are two Taiwanese expressions in the quoted sentence that particularly attracted my attention:

  1. 正港

Min Nan (POJ): chiàⁿ-káng

(Min Nan) authentic; genuine; typical; original

The characters superficially look like they mean "true harbor", but they are being used to transcribe the sounds of Taiwanese morphemes.

  1. 囝仔

Min Bei (KCR): gṳ̌ing-ciě; Min Nan (POJ):  gíná

(Min Bei) child; son; sons and daughters

Both of the characters with which this term is written are used for modern topolectal expressions.  The fact that the first is ranked #6406 on Jun Da's frequency list and the second is #1572 is a fair indication of the degree to which popular topolectal expressions have entered into written Chinese.

The second morpheme is especially productive in Taiwanese.  Here are some examples:  niau-á 貓仔 ("cat"), chhiū-á 樹仔 ("tree"), toh-á 桌仔 ("desk/table").  Notice that all these nouns are countable.  The suffix cannot be used for uncountable nouns, e.g.:  *khong-khì-á 空氣仔 ("air"), *chúi-á 水仔 ("water"), *hô-pêng-á 和平仔 ("peace").

There are many functions of -á 仔.  In gíná 囝仔 it is to indicate the diminutive, "a child".

In Taiwan, 仔 is pronounced in MSM as zăi (following Hong Kong Cantonese zai2 [?]) so that gû-á-khò· 牛仔褲 becomes niúzăikù ("jeans; denims" [lit., "cowboy pants"]) and koa-á-hì 歌仔戲 ("Taiwanese opera") becomes gēzăixì.

Selected readings


  1. John Swindle said,

    July 27, 2020 @ 5:00 am

    Like Hsiao Bi-Khim he's of half-Taiwanese parentage, was raised in Taiwan, and speaks Taiwanese.

  2. Krogerfoot said,

    July 27, 2020 @ 9:54 pm

    I think some commenters will come away with the idea that the point of the post is to marvel that a man who was presumably raised in Taiwan and serves in its army—who is in fact Taiwanese—can speak the language.

    I don't think that's the point of the post, but it's commonplace in a lot of Asia for both locals and foreigners to react with wonderment that someone's skin color or facial features don't dictate the language they speak. (Again, I'm not saying that this post is an example of that.)

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    July 28, 2020 @ 2:26 am

    I think (with respect to Krogerfoot's immediately preceding comment) that it is perfectly natural to react with suprise when someone who is clearly a native speaker of language L does not physically match the ethnic stereotype that most would associate with L. I can remember two occasions on which I have done just that. The first was in a Chinese restaurant in Euston where I overheard a conversation in a typical West Indian accent, including frequent breaks into falsetto, and was absolutely staggered when I look round and saw that all the members of the group were white. The second was in London's Chinatown where I heard a conversation behind me in fluent Mandarin, turned around and saw that one of the two speakers was clearly Western. I imagine that if a cat were to meet another cat that barked rather than miaowed, it would react in exactly the same way.

  4. Chau said,

    July 28, 2020 @ 5:42 pm

    Remarks by both Krogerfoot and Philip Taylor are right on target. Anyone who is born and raised in Taiwan is expected to speak Taiwanese fluently and with native accent, regardless of their ethnic origin or skin color. Much like a young man from Ohio should do the same with his Midwestern American English. Mr. Hung is Taiwanese, therefore, his ability to speak Taiwanese so well should be no big deal, whether or not of Ghanaian heritage.

    But Taiwan is far from the ideal situation. After about 40 years of the KMT martial laws under which only Mandarin was allowed in school, all native languages (Taiwanese, Hakka, Austronesian) have atrophied to such an extent that the younger people have lost proficiency in their respective mother tongues. Some speak Taiwanese with a heavy Mandarin-accent. For instance, because Mandarin lacks the voiced velar /g/ sound, the younger people tend to pronounce the Taiwanese word for ‘I, me’, góa, as “wà” [Cf. Mandarin wŏ 我].

    Because Mr. Hung’s parents both were working, he was raised by his maternal grandmother from whom he picked up unadulterated Taiwanese. Therefore, his Taiwanese is far superior to lots of his peers. Hence, the second part of the title of the newspaper account (indicated as “Source” in the O.P.), “網友驚呼「說得比我還好」Netizens exclaim, ‘(He) speaks better than me.’” This makes Mr. Hung all the more interesting.

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