As a result of political change within Taiwan, the long-suppressed Hokkien language (Taiwanese), spoken by 71 percent of the population, is gaining legitimacy. Although Taiwanese was previously not even spoken in schools, it is now being introduced into school curriculums throughout the country. In addition, it is being used more and more often in the politics, mass media, and everyday speech of the Taiwanese people.
In the Taiwanese language, there are 7 different tones; when speaking, it is necessary to change these tones. This language comes from a highly developed culture which, like that of the Chinese, has a 5,000 year history. As a written language, Taiwanese and Chinese (Mandarin) are very similar in that they use the same characters. As a spoken language, however, these languages are completely different. Because Taiwanese speech has developed differently than its written form, there now exists a slight difference between reading and writing Taiwanese, versus how it is spoken.