globulon?- There seems to be some understandable confusion on these topics. I am a foreigner who has lived in Taipei for 3.5 years at this point, but I am married to a Taiwanese. I'm not a linguist or anything.
On the language question: Everything public is Mandarin. In schools everybody studies Mandarin. If you speak Mandarin you will have no problems getting around and interacting with people in most places you are likely to end up. (One slight source of confusion may come in if you speak just a bit of Mandarin because there are actually a lot of different ways of saying Chinese and China in Mandarin that don't refer to different dialects etc but just have different flavor or emphasis on who they are including or excluding etc).
There is a dialect which in English we call Taiwanese (this is a bit confusing because you would expect this to be the official language of Taiwan but it's not.) As has been pointed out below, this dialect originates from the Fujian province of the mainland. In Mandarin here in Taiwan it is referred to as Tai-Yu. The Hokkien name mentioned below is right for the family of regional dialects that Taiwanese is from ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokkien)but that's not how Taiwanese people refer to the dialect that is spoken in Taiwan. I believe they are still pretty close but consult a linguist if it is important to you to get the details ironed out. This is way far and away the most common dialect after Mandarin throughout the island. It is possible but unlikely that you would meet people who speak only Taiwanese and don't really speak Mandarin. This is more probable the more south and the more rural you get. On the other hand, in Taipei in particular there are plenty of people who speak Mandarin and do not speak Taiwanese.
It is true that the characters are traditional which means that they are more complex. For this reason it is likely to be easier to read the simplified if you already know the traditional rather than the other way around.
There are a good number of other dialects on the island, but it is quite unlikely that if you are just visiting the island that you would have anything to do with those dialects, let alone get into a situation where it was the only language option. (If you want to know there are actually a lot of Japanese speakers particularly in the older generation from the time of the occupation.)
Just for reference, in Taipei it is easy to get around without knowing any Mandarin or Traditional characters as many signs are in English and many people have some degree of English. Obviously it will limit what you can do but you can still have a great time.
The organization and club scene is also a bit complex. I am trying to collect relevant info here ( http://www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=12076&p=190951#p190951)
Malweth - I'm heading to the Taipei region (Chung-li) late summer this year and wondered what kinds of Go resources I might be expected to find? Just wish I spoke Mandarin...
gimpf: Don't worry about Mandarin, although taiwanese people can speak it, they have their own, quite different dialect too :) And, if this wouldn't be enough, enjoy the traditional chinese characters instead of those we learn in our language courses...
user : There are precious few go clubs. The one which was closest to me recently closed down. What you are looking for now are the Children's Go Schools. There is one in Kaohsiung. There is one in Tainan. is also a Goban factory in Taoyuan. You can use Yahoo Babelfish or Google Translate to look at the page. They might have someone there who speaks English depending on the day. http://goodgo.com.tw.
unkx80: The Taiwanese often speak in a Chinese dialect known as Hokkien, just as the Hong Kong people often speak in another Chinese dialect called Cantonese. While it is true that the Chinese did unify the written language, they did not unify the spoken language.
malweth: As I understand it, Hoklo are the native people of Taiwan, and their language is not a dialect of Chinese (though it may have some influences from Chinese). The Chinese have unified the written language, except for Taiwan which uses the "Traditional" characters (rather than the "simplified"). Additionally, however, the Chinese language was unified, or at least made official. Pu-tong-hua (Mandarin) is the official language of China (called Guoyu in Taiwan), though Cantonese and others are still used. This is all quite off topic, however... :D
ajility?: There is a bit of confusion here at the moment. The Taiwanese dialect is called "Hokkienese" meaning Fujianese, the dialect spoken by Han Chinese in the mainland province of Fujian which is opposite Taiwan. The term Hokkien is also used to describe the Hoklo indigenous peoples of Taiwan, who naturally speak a non-Chinese language. The two groups are sometimes called the same name because they both lived in the same place (e.g. way the heck far away from any of the historical capitals of China). Nevertheless, there is a Fujianese-like Taiwanese dialect spoken commonly in Taiwan, especially outside of academic/business settings or by those without much education.
Alex Wang: Does anyone know of any go salons on the island? If so please tell me, thanks.
MalwethPDA: Although somewhat independently ruled, it IS a part of China. In international goe competitions I've seen it refered to as "Chinese Taipei," as in the Olympics.
The question is: what is an appropriate PC description of Taiwan?
I will be removing "independently ruled" from the description, leaving it as simply an island off the coast of China.
Bildstein: For these issues, it's often a good idea to look at Wikipedia, a site that prides itself on its neutral point of view and hence political correctness. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan:
This article is on the people, history, culture, and geography of Taiwan. For the state commonly known as "Taiwan," see Republic of China.
So perhaps we should also ask ourselves whether we're talking about the island or the nation/state/government. I don't know the answer to that question.
Malweth: We're certainly talking about Taiwan the people, island, and country. It's hard to separate the people from the country. The problem with being Politically Correct about Taiwan in a global setting is that, according to the USA, China, and many other countries, Taiwan is a republic of China. To a fewer other countries (Isreal and others), and a fair number of the population on the island, Taiwan is an independent country.
It seems to me that the best way to discuss Taiwan is to remove all status concerning the political state of the island. Unless specifically required in discussion (such as Visa concerns), Taiwan is neither a country nor a republic on SL.
(Interestingly, Wikipedia calls Taiwan "Republic of China" which is its official designation, but not universally acknowledged).
Bildstein: Wow, this is more interesting than I realised. It turns out the current government of Taiwan is actually just the exiled original government of mainland China (hence they call themselves the "Republic of China"), and the current government of mainland China ("Peoples Republic of China") is from an uprising earlier this century. What I find really interesting is that the new China government actually managed to get the old China government kicked out of the UN, taking its seat in even the security council: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_and_the_United_Nations.
Rafael: "somewhat independently ruled"? Taiwan has been de facto independent for more than 50 years now. They have independent judiciary, legislative and executive powers, their own currency and military (if anything they're dependent on US military, but so is Japan and many other countries). Taiwan being called "Chinese Taipei" in go and sports competitions is due to Beijing (PRC) pressure. This is well-known.
To PRC, Taiwan is a province of China, and thus PRC is sovereign over it. This is clearly not the position of USA. Taiwan has de facto embassies in many countries, including USA.
It's silly to say that on SL Taiwan can't be called a country or republic. The ROC also used to claim sovereignty over all of China (don't know what's the situation now), but that doesn't change the fact that PRC have been ruling mainland China and doesn't stop people calling China a republic.
"what is an appropriate PC description of Taiwan?" I'm not sure if we need a description of Taiwan on SL at all, but we certainly don't need a PC one. It's not like China will bomb the SL server if we say that Taiwan is a country.
Velobici: Taiwan (ROC) is either independently ruled or its government is subservient to another. Clearly, if Taiwan was subservient to the People's Republic of China (PRC), ROC would have disbanded or its leader would be an appointee of PRC ala Hong Kong (elected from a PRC approved list of candidates). It is ROC's independence and PRC's rejection of that independence that creates the current friction between the two governments.
Perhaps it would be best to delete the country pages (Japan, China, Taiwan, etc.). They add little to Sensei's Library and seem to be a source of dissent.
Bildstein: Definitely not! How can you suggest that because something is contentious it should not be talked about?
Velobici: The fact that there is a contentious issue between two go playing countries has little, if not nothing, to do with go or Sensei's Library. Why should we burden ourselves with the matter. Why should we adopt a position. Wikipedia can take a position...indeed that is a major flaw in Wikipedia...frequently on contenious issues it select a point of view and declares that to be a neutral point of view.
In the dialog above we have people arguing about
To what end? How does this improve Sensei's Library?
Let us shun dissention, rather let us learn go together.
Bildstein: Because SL is not only about the game of go, it's about culture as well, and a lot of other things. There are 306 pages labelled as Culture and History - it would seem that each of these warrent deletion about as much as pages like Taiwan. In my opinion, the political differences between Taiwan and China are relevant. They have an effect on professional bodies, on the promotion of go in these countries, and on entry to tournaments. I see these reasons as enough to justify, if not warrent, a discussion on what the real political status of Taiwan is.
Velobici: Sigh. No, lets not delete all the pages in Culture and History. Culture and History pages include particular go games (Atomic bomb game, Blood Vomiting Game), joseki, go equipment information, tournament informatino (Castle Games), various players (Doteki), et cetera.
Bildstein: Okay, I'll humour you. One effect on professional bodies is that there is a Taiwanese professional body as well as a Chinese one. I doubt that if China had managed to gain control of Taiwan this would have happened.
The basis of my comment on entry to tournaments is even more obvious. If Taiwan and China were mutually recognised independant states, there would be no way for a Taiwanese professional to enter a Chinese tournament; Similarly, if Taiwan was under the rule of China and neither recognised a distinction between Taiwan and China, Taiwanese professionals would certainly be able to enter Chinese tournaments, as would any other Chinese citizens.
My third comment, on the promotion of go, is harder to find evidence for, and I must say I'm no expert. Yet I would be very surprised if China is currently supporting, promoting and recognising the Taiwanese professionals as it would if Taiwan was a completely subservient province of China.
Lastly, let me clarify: I am not advocating deleting any of the Culture and History pages any more than I am advocating deleting Taiwan, I was simply (although perhaps not very effectively) trying to make the point that Sensei's Library is about more than just the "learning go together" that you suggested above.
Additionally, I don't think many have issues with describing Taiwan as either a non-independent state nor an independent country. It's one of the few places that can handle both distinctions.
I'll take the easy one: when entering international tournaments of any type, the Taiwanese must register as "Chinese Taipei."