How Many People in Taiwan Speak English?

Less than 40% of Tiawanese adults speak English as a second language

Taiwan is a small island nation with a complex linguistic landscape. It’s estimated that over 80% of Taiwan’s population speaks at least two local languages, mainly Mandarin and Hokkien. On top of that, Taiwanese students also take foreign language courses as part of the school curriculum, with a heavy focus on English. 

English proficiency is seen as an important skill in Taiwan, and the government has been making strides to promote and facilitate English language education in the country. As of today, most young adults in Taiwan have taken English classes as part of their compulsory education. That being said, English is still not that common in the country.

How many people in Taiwan speak English, and what’s the general level of proficiency? There aren’t any precise figures on the topic but most people agree that English isn’t widely spoken in Taiwan. According to the most recent estimates, less than 40% of the adult population speaks English.

The English language remains a hot topic in Taiwan and there have been great efforts to increase proficiency over the last two decades. Keep reading to learn more about this topic!

Number of English Speakers in Taiwan (General Stats)

Many compare Taiwan’s English skills to other countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and across the Taiwan Strait. The consensus is that Taiwan is on the same level with Japan and mainland China, but far behind South Korea and Singapore.

Here’s all the latest information on English in Taiwan to paint a more detailed picture:

  1. A 2020 survey found that the vast majority of Taiwanese adults don’t speak English. 45% of respondents said they only know how to introduce themselves in English using basic phrases, the equivalent of an A1 English level. 16% said they know little to no English.
  1. 28.6% of respondents in the same survey said they speak basic English (A2-B1 level). Less than 10% of people said they can speak English with a high degree of proficiency, and less than 3% described themselves as highly fluent or bilingual.
  1. A quarter of respondents in their 20s said they can use English to communicate effectively in everyday situations. This makes people in their 20s the most likely age group to speak English.
  1. The survey only included people in their 20s to 50s. The total percentage of English speakers in Taiwan is still not clear when accounting for other age groups. However, teenagers in Taiwan have an English level of A2 on average.
  1. Adults over 50 are highly unlikely to speak English due to the late introduction of mandatory English classes in Taiwanese schools.
  1. English proficiency in Taiwan is generally low. Taiwan was last included in EF’s English Proficiency Index in 2018 when it ranked 48th place out of 88 countries.
  1. In the 2018 proficiency index, Taiwan was one spot behind China and one spot above Japan. There was less than a 10-point difference between the countries.
  1. Older EPI data shows that Northern Taiwan has better English skills than the rest of the country, especially cities like Taipei and New Taipei.
  1. In 2018, Taiwan’s government announced a plan to increase English proficiency in the country. This initiative is now known as the Bilingual 2030 policy. As the name suggests, this policy aims to transform Taiwan into a bilingual country by 2030, with English becoming the second national language.

Overall, English is not widely spoken in Taiwan, and less than 1 in 10 adults describe themselves as fluent. The vast majority of Taiwanese people can’t hold a conversation in English, but close to 1 in 2 know at least a few basic phrases. The remaining 28% of adults can speak English well enough to navigate everyday situations.

CEFR Levels and their EPI score equivalents
CEFR Levels and their EPI score equivalents

Sources: TopSCHOLAR®, ShareAmerica, 換日線Crossing, NDC, Taipei Times

Where is English Widely Spoken in Taiwan?

Taipei has a B2 English level on average
Taipei has a B2 English level on average

As a general rule, English is most common in large cities, especially those in the North of the country. A good percentage of university students and other younger people in these parts of the country speak fluent English. The same applies to workers in the hospitality industry.

English becomes less commonplace the further away you go from the vibrant city centers, especially in the South of the country. Small towns and rural areas have very few English speakers, especially among the older population.

When it comes to English skills, there’s a marked divide between the Northern and Southern parts of the country, as was seen in previous editions of the English Proficiency Index. Many attribute this disparity to the uneven distribution of resources within Taiwan.

Northern Taiwan is more developed on all fronts, including economy, industry, and education. As a result, Northern Taiwan can provide more opportunities for English learners both in state schools and in private cram schools (known as “buxibans”).

The capital city of Taipei and other big neighboring cities also strive to create a multilingual environment for tourists, international students, and foreign workers in the country. Taking these economic, educational, and demographic differences into account, English in Taiwan is most common in:

  • Taipei
  • New Taipei
  • Taichung
  • Taoyuan

Some large Southern cities are also making strides to encourage the use of English in the public and private domains. According to Taiwan News, the city of Tainan introduced the “English-Friendly Emblems” project in 2017. This project pushed for local restaurants, transportation services, temples, and other tourist hotspots to provide English services for visitors.

In 2023, New Taipei introduced the first automatic translation kiosks powered by artificial intelligence. These counters provide real-time translations for English as well as Japanese and Korean. They’re currently being tested in the city airport and visitor centers, with plans to expand the project to all airports and tourist hotspots nationwide.

If government efforts to promote English as a second language succeed, the use of English is expected to increase throughout the country within the next decade, especially in Taiwan’s cultural epicenters like Taipei and Tainan.

Sources: Wikipedia, Taiwan News, Cambridge, Taipei Times

English Speakers in Taiwan by Demographic Group

Up to 70% of Taiwanese students attend private English cram schools
Up to 70% of Taiwanese students attend private English cram schools

As in most countries where English is taught as a foreign language, the younger population in Taiwan is the most likely to speak English fluently. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of Taiwan’s English-speaking demographic:

  • The most recent survey on English in Taiwan only included adults in their 20s to 50s. People in their 50s are the least likely to speak English, and only 14.7% of respondents in this age group said they could communicate effectively in casual situations.
  • People in their 20s are the most likely to speak English; 25.9% claimed they could communicate in the language effortlessly. The percentage drops to less than 20% for people in their 30s and 40s.
  • It’s highly unlikely for adults aged 55+ to speak English in any capacity. It wasn’t until 1987 that Taiwan adopted a global outlook that favored the learning of major foreign languages like English in state schools.
  • In 2001, English was first introduced as a compulsory school subject in primary schools, starting in 5th grade (age 10). Adults aged 30 today are the first generation to have received such early English education in state schools.
  • All Taiwanese teenagers are taught English in school. First-year high-school students have an English level of A1 to A2, meaning they can use basic words and phrases. Many senior high school students likely have better English skills (B1 and above).
  • Cram schools have peaked in popularity over the past few years. It’s estimated that 70% of high school students and 60% of middle school students in Taiwan attend these private schools to learn English (alongside math, science, and other subjects).
  • In the past editions of the EPI, Taiwan had an average English proficiency equivalent to a B1 (intermediate) level. People aged 18-25 had the best proficiency on average. Note that a B1 level in English implies the ability to communicate freely on a variety of common topics.
  • Those with a higher income and higher level of education are more likely to speak English, especially on a frequent basis. Medium and large enterprises are focusing more and more on English skills, especially those in the IT and electronic industries. Fluent English speakers typically receive higher starting and average salaries.

Overall, it seems that a quarter of adults under 30 speak fluent or conversational English. This is especially true for young adults who live in large cities, and who have a higher education and income.

Women had slightly higher proficiency scores than men, but there was no major difference in language skills. The biggest differences appear across age groups, with people over 50 being the least likely to know English.

Sources: TopSCHOLAR®, Cambridge, 換日線Crossing, World TESOL Academy, Taipei Times, Education First, TOEIC


English is not very common in Taiwan, as the majority of the population doesn’t speak the language. Young adults under 30 are the most likely to know English at a conversational level or higher. English is also more widely spoken in large cities in the North, like Taipei. In 2017, Taiwan’s government launched the “Bilingual 2030” Policy to improve English skills nationwide.

Some of the main motivations behind this decision were enhancing Taiwan’s competitiveness, diplomatic relations, and cultural contrast to China. The aim is to promote the English language in schools and public institutions, with the hope of making most Taiwanese people bilingual. Right now, demand for English cram schools is on the rise, but a nationwide increase in English speakers will likely take a while.


What’s the official language of Taiwan?

There are many languages spoken across the country. Taiwan doesn’t have an officially declared language but the de facto language is Mandarin Chinese, the most widely spoken language in the country. Another widespread local language is Taiwanese Hokkien, which is often colloquially referred to as the “Taiwanese language.”

Most Taiwanese people speak both Hokkien and Taiwanese Mandarin. A small percentage of the Taiwanese population speaks the Hakka language and various indigenous languages, mostly Formosan languages.

What other foreign languages are taught in Taiwan?

Of all foreign languages, English is the primary language taught in elementary school. The second most common foreign language in Taiwan is Japanese. Many Taiwanese students opt for Japanese language education, especially those pursuing a higher education in Japan.

Korean and various Southeast Asian languages are also popular, but most people learn those outside of state schools. Institutions of higher education also sometimes offer courses in other languages like French and German.

Can I visit Taiwan if I only speak English?

Not much of Taiwan speaks English. It would be difficult to communicate with Taiwanese people if you don’t know any of the local languages. However, it’s still easy to get by in popular destinations in the country. A significant number of public and even private services in tourist areas already use English, partly thanks to the Bilingual 2030 Policy.

Restaurant menus, signs, public transportation, tourist offices, and hotels offer English services. Young people in large cities are also likely to speak conversational English, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find help. Older working-age adults likely only speak a few words in English. However, many tourists visiting Taiwan claim the locals are very friendly and eager to help, despite the language barrier.