All Taiwanese study English in school but the results are mixed, the further from Taipei you go the worse it seems to get. While some will be eager to try out their English and be fairly fluent, many others will be shy and will struggle with even the simplest phrases. If encountering problems communicating, speak clearly (in normal sentences), or try writing things down. Some people also speak some Japanese.
Considering how few foreigners come here to actually make use of them, there is an admirable level of effort put into providing facilities that have some version of English translation. Most road signs and trail markers are written in both Chinese and English. Unfortunately quality topographical hiking maps are only available in Chinese, we can on a case-to-case basis provide maps annotated with English. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Romanization - the use of 'English' letters to represent Chinese words, is an embarrassing mess in Taiwan. Do not be surprised to see multiple spellings of the same place. One of the most notorious examples being Shei Shan/Xue Shan/Syue Shan/Hsieh Shan/HsuehShan (Snow Mountain). Taiwan's government is slowly and haphazardly adopting the internationally-recognized Hanyu system.
Taiwanese are pleased to hear visitors trying (even if with little success) to speak Chinese. Here I list some phrases and terms that may be useful when hiking in Taiwan. Some are for anyone to try anytime, some are for problem situations, and some may only be of interest to students of Chinese. Please remember some of these terms may not translate directly with the same connotion or emphasis, or may be used differently in English/Chinese. Also included are a couple examples of inaccurate or misleading items sometimes written on signs.
Chinese, pinyin, Meaning, other comments
Try these phrases out on the trail. Some you are likely to hear quite often.
加 油 jiāyóu Add oil. This is a friendly phrase of encouragement. It literally means 'add oil', and is a greeting sometimes translated as 'Go! Go!'.
早安 zǎoān or just 早 zǎo Good morning.
謝謝 xièxie Thank-you. There is no reason to leave good manners behind at home.
你先過 nǐ xiān guò You (come/go) pass by first. When passing on the trail.
介過 jiè guò Excuse me. - if asking to get by someone one the trail.
小心 xiǎoxīn Careful!
慢走 mànzǒu Literally 'slow walk', a polite farewell greeting.
快到了 kuài dào le You'll be there soon!
好重/好輕 hǎo chóng/hǎo qīng - Very heavy/Very light!
辛苦了 xīn kǔ le So hard! Used to encourage people.
走吧 zǒu ba Let's walk/go! you may often also hear the more glutteral Taiwanese 'gya!'.
Oo-ni-nan Is 'thank-you' or 'Hello' in the Bunung language (The tribe most high-mountain porters and many national park people belong to). Few non-Bunun will know this phrase, and using it (with Bunun) will be appreciated.
Common geographical and mountain related nouns.
Natural and man-made.
山 shān Mountain - as in Yushan - Jade Mountain.
水 shuǐ Water. Learn to recognize this one!
河/溪 hé /xī River/Stream. Often streams are described as rivers, and vice versa.
百岳 bǎi yuè Refers to the Top 100 mountains in Taiwan. It is common to ask accomplished hikers how many of the Bai-yue they have climbed.
嶺線 lǐng xiàn Ridge line. Also 稜線 is sometimes used.
水源 shuǐyuán Water source
鞍部 ānbù Coll/saddle. A low point on a ridge. Sometimes you will see colls described as "Anbu" on signs.
主峰 zhǔ fēng Main peak.
山頭 shāntóu, 山頂 shāndǐng Summit, or top of a hill/mountain. Or 最高點 zuìgāodiǎn Higest point.
避風處 bìfēngchù Sheltered (from the wind) location.
峭壁 qiàobì Cliff.
崩壁 bēng bì Collapsed cliff (usually loose).
亂石崩壁 luànshí bēng bì Loose rock/scree cliff - sometimes not avoidable in Taiwan.
滴水 dīshuǐ Dripping water (a cabin roof, a water source etc).
dwan ai - 'broken ridge' a cliff, a path over a very steep slope
河床 héchuáng River/stream bed.
活水源 huó shuǐyuán Flowing water source, literally 'living water'.
黑水池 hēishuǐ chí Literally 'Black water pond', small ponds, often shared with animals - an inferior water source. Also 看天池 kàn tiān chí something similar, without so many negative conatations.
山脈 shānmài Mountain Range as in 中央山脈 zhōngyāng shānmài - the Central Mountain Range.
峽谷 xiágǔ Valley.
瘦嶺 shòulǐng Narrow ridge. Also 瘦稜.
圍谷 wéi gǔ Glacial Cirque or combe.
山溝 shāngōu Gully or ravine.
湖/池 hú /chí Lake or pond, see also 潭/塘/溏 tán /táng /táng refering to, usually, smaller ponds.
森林 sēnlín Forest.
叢林 cónglín Jungle.
山洞 shāndòng Cave.
水庫 shuǐkù Reseviour.
瀑布 pùbù Waterfall.
展望點 zhǎnwàng diǎn Viewpoint.
溪溝 xī gōu Stream gully.
下游 xiàyóu Downstream.
溫泉 wēnquán Hotspring.
溪流域 xīliú yù Stream/river catchment area.
塌方/坍塌 tāfāng/tāntā Landslide.
崩塌 bēngtā To collapse.
沿途 yántú Along the way.
高山 gāoshān High Mountains.
溪畔 xī pàn, 溪邊 xī pàn Stream bank.
合流 héliú Convergence (of rivers etc).
石頭 shítou Stone.
大草原/平原 dàcǎoyuán /píngyuán Alpine meadow, or sometimes a flatish area described as 'field'
橫斷 héngduàn Cross-sectional Ridge.
假山頭 jiǎshān tóu False summit.
群峰 qún fēng A group of summits or peaks.
白木林 Bái Mùlín White forest, a term describing an area damaged by fire, where the resulting dead trees have been weathered white or silver.
連峰 Lián Fēng Connected peaks.
黑森林 hēi sēnlín Black Forest, a term for mature forests with a thick canopy - darkening the forest floor.
天池 tiān chí Heaven lake, many high-elevation lakes are named this. Often have become places of pilgrimage.
坑 kēng A hole or some kind of depression, often used in names of places.
Copyright Barking Deer Adventures. For permission to copy email@example.com
And of a more human connection.
直升機停機坪 zhíshēngjī tíngjīpíng Helipad "apron".
山徑 shān jìng Mountain trail or 路徑.
林道 Lín Dào Forest road or logging road, these trails are, or at one time were, usable by 4-wheeled vehicles. Many abandoned now.
登山口 dēngshān kǒu Trail head, also often translated on signs as, 'hiking entrance' or 'climbing mouth/gate'.
階梯 jiētī Ladder also sometime steep steps.
露營地 lòuyíngdi or just 營地 yíngdi Campsite
空地 kōng dì Empty space/land.
山屋 shān wū Mountain Shelter. Note: the words 'shelter, hut, lodge, cottage, cabin and villa' are used interchangeably on signs/maps, in reference to various kinds of structure - from the most basic to palatial.
山莊 shān zhuāng Lodge (as in Paiyun Lodge) or cabin, sometimes translated as 'mountain village'! Usually similar to the term above, but also used in reference to hostels, and various other places to rest your head.
工寮 gōng liáo Work station, usually refers to a very simple cabin or hut.
鐵皮屋 tiěpí wū Tin/metal-roofed cabin.
獵寮 liè liáo Hunters' shelter.
涼亭 liángtíng Pagoda or pavilion, sometimes translated as 'shed'.
駐在所 zhù zài suǒ A station, often refering to the remains of colonial-era Japanese police stations.
三角點 sānjiǎo diǎn Triangulation point the best being 一等 yī děng first class.
木樁 mù zhuāng Wooden marker posts.
古道 gǔ dào Historic road or trail.
交界 jiāojiè Common border or boundary between two places such as counties.
繞路 ràolù Detour or to detour.
岔路 chà lù Intersection.
痕跡 hénjì Mark or trace as in Leave No Trace.
遺址 yízhǐ The remains of something such as a building.
中途 zhōngtú On the way (location).
橋樑 Bridge or just 橋 qiáo.
吊橋 diàoqiáo Suspension bridge.
木棧 mù zhàn Wooden bridge.
棧橋 zhàn qiáo 'ferry bridge' or gangplank.
防火道 fánghuǒ dào firebreak.
路跡 lù jì track often faint.
捷徑 jiéjìng Shortcut.
水塔 shuǐ tǎ Water tank.
隧道 suìdào Tunnel.
水壩 shuǐbà Dam.
開墾地 kāikěn dì Area cleared for cultivation.
果園 guǒyuán Orchard.
廚房 chúfáng Kitchen.
廁所 cèsuǒ Toilet, WC, bathroom.
浴室 yùshì Shower Room, bathroom.
標誌 biāo jǐn * A sign, marker, indicator, also 指標 zhǐbiāo.
座 zuò The measure word for mountain and bridges.
三岔路口 sān chà lùkǒu A three way intersection.
終點 zhōngdiǎn End point.
Off the mountain:
民宿 mín sù Guest house, or B&B.
救國團 jiù guó tuán The China Youth Corps, run most of the hostels.
飯店/賓館 fàndiàn/bbbbguǎn Hotel.
遊客中心 遊kè zhōngxīn Visitor center.
加油站 jiāyóuzhàn Gas station.
國家公園 guójiā gōngyuán National Park.
林務局 Lín Wùjú The Forestry Department.
警察局 jǐngchájú Police Station, also 派出所 pàichūsuǒ for sub-stations.
村莊/城市 cūnzhuāng /chéngshì Village/town.
高速公路 gāosùgōnglù Freeway.
公路 gōnglù Public road or highway.
遊憩區 Recreation Area.
保護區 bǎohùqū Protected area.
管理員 guǎnlǐyuán Warden or caretaker.
挑夫 tiāofū Porter also sometimes the term 山青 shān qīng.
警察 jǐngchá Police.
登山客 dēngshān kè Hiker/trekker.
領隊 lǐngduì Leader (as in team leader).
原住民 yuánzhùmín Aboridigine/indigeneous person.
隊伍 duìwǔ Team or (hiking) group.
研究調查人員 yánjiū diàochárényuán Researcher.
搜救隊伍 sōujiù duìwǔ Search and rescue team.
農夫 nóngfū Farmer.
替代役 tìdài yì Alternative (Military) Service Officer. These are young men doing their compulsory service with the National Parks or Forestry Department instead of the army etc. Have found them to be quite helpful.
山友 shān yǒu 'Mountain friends' usually referring to people that like to visit the mountains.
病患 bìnghuàn Patient.
留守人 liú shǒu rén The person left behind at home, holding the fort to alert authorities of any emergency - or the authorities to alert. Next of kin.
支援 zhīyuán Support.
Hundreds more phrases and words coming soon...working on the details...trying not to go mad...ask me if you want to copy this...