Last week I was chatting with some elderly women who are friends with my neighbors. They cannot read, and only speak Taiwanese, so communicating with them in my low-intermediate level Taiwanese is difficult at best.
Without intending insult to them or Taiwanese culture, which I love, I used a term to communicate that when I first came to Taiwan, I found the Taiwanese language disagreeable to hear, not pleasing to the ear, coarse, etc. My point was that it sounded that way to me because I could not understand it.
Oops. That comment really stuck with them!
Today when I walked back to the house after visiting with a neighbor, the two old ladies flagged me down when I said hello to them. Today on the television, they said, was a foreigner who spoke really good Taiwanese. He said that when he first started learning Taiwanese, he found it very beautiful to the ear!
台灣人本土意識很強。 Next time I’ll try to smooth things over by emphasizing how lovely I am finding the Taiwanese language now that I am finally beginning to understand more of it.