I’ve stayed largely out of this argument because I don’t feel I have much to offer on the subject and because its not something I care particularly about as I don’t study Chinese. As for road signs, which is what most of this issue has concentrated on, I’ve been here for around 13 years and while poor romanization has occasionally given me a chuckle (d’you know there’s a little town near Kaohsiung called Putz? I want to live there), it has never given me any problems finding my way around or giving directions to other people. (Poor signposting obviously erected by untrained monkeys yes, but that’s another issue entirely.)
I do, however, admire the enormous amount of work and research that has been done by the likes of Cranky, Maoman, et al.
That said, I can’t help feeling that they are somehow missing the point to a certain degree. As an academic debate, its been done to death – between them, Cranky, Maoman and the rest have comprehensively trashed any possible notion that anything dreamed up by the respected local “scholars” can in any way compete with Hanyu Pinyin as a logical and sensible form of Romanization. Further argument seems to me to be thrashing a dead horse. There’s no real argument any more and I’ve yet to see any convincing arguments as to the benefits of Tongyong Pinyin, etc.
Maoman says in his excellent opinion piece that Tzeng and Ma already know that Hanyu is the only way to go. I’d go further and guess that almost all those involved agree (albeit secretly, perhaps).
The thing is, this does not appear to be an argument that will be decided from an academic standpoint but will rather be resolved from an emotional point of view, especially since the logical, sensible arguments are coming from members of the foreign community. Take a look at yesterday’s quotes in the Taipei Times from the Kinmen Deputy County Commissioner. According to this gentleman, “we Chinese are smarter than foreigners” – said in the presence of reporters, yet, how smart is THAT, azzhole?
It would be nice to think his is a view shared by no more than a handful of fossilized officials in Taiwan, but I don’t think that is the case and a great many of these fossils still have very powerful voices.
I don’t feel this issue has ever really given more than a passing nod to academic research or discourse and involving foreigners in the process is no more than paying lip service. Sure, there are a few enlightened souls such as Ma, etc., but for most of the people who make the decisions here, the idea of adopting a “mainland Chinese” system is still absolutely taboo under any circumstances, even though they are totally aware of the value and logic of using an international standard.
On this note, I wonder why the Taiwan News chose to describe Hanyu Pinyin as “the People’s Republic of China system” (see Cranky’s post above) rather than the (to me) more accurate “the Romanization system recognized and used exclusively throughout the entire international community around the world, apart from Taiwan… but sometimes used in Taiwan also.” Coupled with the op ed piece in the same paper that prompted Maoman’s rebuttal, I think that says it all.
The argument needs to get past the academic stage and address squarely why the Hanyu opponents continue to tout Tongyong as a “home-brewed” system to replace the “mainland system” rather than facing facts – Tongyong and the other even more far-fetched ideas are hacked and slashed local alternatives to a globally recognized international standard.