English on road signs conference

If you have any opinions on the English on road signs (7/10) or
billboards (7/25) here, see
groups.google.com.tw/groups?selm … put=gplain
and sign up by calling 049-2355550#223 Ms. Guo Sulian for the conferences.

The venue for the meetings is:


I negated some stupid prick’s negative rating for Juba’s post. What possible reason could there be for a negative rating for a simple address? If its a WRONG address, surely the logical thing to do would be to point this out. If its the correct address, why the negative rating? Anonymous, too, so you must be aware that you’re being a prick. Asshole.

If you’d like to pop over to here :arrow_right: forumosa.com/3/viewtopic.php?t=10259&highlight=
You’ll see that some nob-end has be going around anonymously and randomly negatively rating posts.

EDIT: look what happened to your post, see what I mean ?

I don’t have much faith this gathering is going to be particularly useful or informative. I say this because I had a look at the handout material from the last time they scheduled this meeting. (It was cancelled at the last minute because of SARS-related worries – legitimate, in this case.) The handout was more than 50 pages of material in Chinese showing road signs in Germany and other places. There was almost nothing about Tongyong or romanization. And the only sign in Tongyong shown in the material had “Zhongsiao,” which is from an outdated version of Tongyong.

But I’ll be there anyway, just in case.

Maybe I’ll have a chance to present my view that cars should have reflective white license plates on the front and reflective yellow ones on the back, like we have in the UK, and that traffic lights should go red-and-amber before they turn green, and cyclists should be required to have white headlights and red taillights etc. etc.

Apparently Jidanni thought there would be no point going regarding the pinyin problem, but the contact woman thought otherwise - and there’s some kind of chemafei (expenses) on offer to participants.

I’m getting no reply on that number. Anyone got through?

Surely noone would be so petty. It must be a computer bug, surely?

The conference was yesterday. Hartzell, Jidanni, I and another Forumosan were there. I’ll let them give the details of their own remarks.

The first hour and a half consisted of Powerpoint presentations by four “guest speakers.” Among the facts presented was:

That averages out to NT$3,634 per sign.

After the presentations and a short break, the meeting was opened up to remarks from the floor. Jidanni had a go at Tongyong Pinyin, whose inventor, faux scholar Yu Bor-chuan, responded by claiming that most foreigners in Taiwan really want Tongyong Pinyin. He knows this, he said, because he sent some schoolkids around to interview “foreigners.” :unamused:

Hartzell also had some gruff but amusing remarks on the romanization mess.

The chair eventually remarked, “The choice of romanization systems has already been made at a higher level, so would everyone please stick to talking about other aspects of signage.” Aw, he’s no fun.

Denied a chance to slam Tongyong, when it was my turn to talk I spoke mainly about practical concerns:
[ul][li]The nicknumbering system, which one speaker had praised, is horrible. The problem is not that foreigners are so easily confused by “Chinese” names; it’s that the romanization situation has been a complete and utter disaster. The problem was that there were many competing romanization systems and many mistakes, and the poor maps compounded this situation. Adding another system that no one knows or even cares about only adds to the confusion, not helps the situation. [/li]
[li]Using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS on signs is a bad thing. It reduces legibility and takes up more space. [/li]
[li]Using InTerCapITalIZaTion is also a bad thing. [/li]
[li]Changing to a new system – whether it be Hanyu Pinyin, Tongyong Pinyin, or anything else – doesn’t do any good if people don’t pay close and sustained attention to quality control. Otherwise, we could end up with the same mess as before. [/li][/ul]
I ended with a slam at Yu Bor-chuan, thanking the panel for apparently studying the issue of signage closely rather than relying on sending out children to perform preposterous, invalid, unscientific surveys. :smiling_imp:

There’s a related conference on July 25. It will focus on signage on buildings, I think. Same time, same place. But people should sign up in advance, esp. if they want a chance at receiving a chemafei hongbao of NT$2,000. :sunglasses:

The Taipei Times didn’t mention you, just some guy called Mark…

[quote]He knows this, he said, because he sent some schoolkids around to interview “foreigners.” [/quote] :unamused: This explains a lot… stupid twat.
How many schoolkids know the difference between (Hanyu) Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin ? How many schoolkids think it’s called ‘English’ alphabet ?
TT kept using the word ‘Bilingual’ signs, so what would be Chinese and what ?

Kudos for all the foreigners who attended the meeting to show they care about this topic. Out of curiosity, was the meeting conducted in Chinese, English or both?

Cranky, I agree with all your points, just curious about …

[quote]Using InTerCapITalIZaTion is also a bad thing.
I think intercapitalization is necessary, not only is it more readable, but also avoids ambiguities such as … TANGAN (fictitious pinyin word), which could be either TangAn or TanGan. I can’t think of a real Taipei street name that fits the pattern, but I know there are a few.

I think cranky wants it to be Tan’gan. Personally, if it’s something short like a name I don’t really care if it’s Tan’gan, TanGan, Tan-Gan, Tan Gan, it’s clear how it should be pronouced, just as long as it’s not DanKang ! I’ll probably write it Tan-Gan just to make double extra super sure.

No, it’s not clear. It could be tan + gan or tang + an - the pronunciation in Chinese is quite different. The rule for dealing with this in Hanyu pinyin is to separate the syllables with an apostrophe, not a hyphen or a capital letter. It is only necessary in a few cases, two actual examples among Taibei street names being Ren’ai and Chang’an roads. If the people who make the road signs can’t figure out when you need an apostrophe, they can just employ Cranky Laowai or me to do it for them.


how can Tan-Gan be confused with Tang-An ? Justing say I really don’t care too much if it’s an apostrophe or a hyphen, capitalized 2nd sylable or not, just as long as it’s not ambigous. Apostrophes have other meanings anyway. Might not be the ideal style, but it’s lot better than ‘DanKang’ which we have had to put with.

The whole point is to have standards, not to make up your own rules as you go along. The rule is to use an apostrophe, not a hyphen. The rule is part of the Hanyu pinyin scheme and it was established forty years ago. If you go making up your own rules, you are doing exactly what the Tongyong gang are doing. You don’t make up your own rules about English spelling, do you? I mean, you could spell Washington D.C. as Wo-shing-tun Dee-see and the pronunciation would be just the same, but it wouldn’t be much help if you were trying to find it in the index of an atlas or doing a web search, would it?

Hyphens have another purpose in Hanyu pinyin, which is to connect the parts of certain kinds of compound words, including chengyu (those four-character set phrases.) Capital letters also have a purpose - basically the same purpose they have in English, i.e. to mark the beginning of sentences and proper nouns. If you use them for some other purpose, they lose their intended function.

You’re right, I stand corrected. Not thinking of the big picture again, slap my legs. Road signs should be standard and correct, apostrophes and all. But it’s hard to consider Tongyong a standard.
Maybe I’m just too lazy to work out if it needs an apostrophe, so put in a hyphen regardless just to make sure :unamused:

As Juba mentioned earlier, there aren’t so many apostrophes needed. The actual figure is that fewer than 2 percent of polysyllabic Mandarin words need an apostrophe.

What people do individually on Web forums and the like is one thing, not requiring an unusual amount of care for form and style. (But please, please don’t add unnecessary hyphens.) Governments, on the other hand, are supposed to have and follow standards. The responsibility is higher.

There are a lot of problems with intercaps. When they first appeared, I didn’t recognize this at first either, thinking they were but an annoying quirk. I was wrong.

Here is just one example. When names are put in all capital letters, as they inevitably will be sometimes, the distinction of the extra capital is lost. Taipei used to be filled with unreliable street signs in mock Wade-Giles because the government thought maybe they’d look better without all those apostrophes. That only meant, however, that it was impossible to tell from, say, “Peiping,” whether it really meant Pei-ping (Beibing), Pei-p’ing (Beiping), P’ei-ping (Peibing), or P’ei-p’ing (Peiping). Hanyu Pinyin doesn’t need anywhere near as many apostrophes as Wade-Giles; but in those few instances where they’re needed, they’re needed.

Hats off to you fine ladies and gentlemen for your efforts. You should be handsomely rewarded for attempting to improve Taiwan’s international standing.

Juba said:

What a damned fine idea.


Off my head, I can think of 7 different way of writing street names:

Chinese Characters
Wade Giles
Post Office romantization
Chen Shui-Bian’s Taiwanese (Manka, Shulim etc…)

Any others ?

Well, in terms of what’s actually been seen on signs, I can add a few more: MPS2 (official from 1986 through the promulgation of Tongyong) and Gwoyeu Romatzyh (promulgated in 1936).

What weird is that I never saw any signs in Gwoyeu Romatzyh until recently, when some appeared around the new train station in Banqiao. Somebody screwed up.

Which brings me to another thing commonly seen on signs: mistakes (regardless of the target system).

Does anyone know how accurately Hanyu Pinyin is used on street signs in Mainland China? I mean, do they use apostrophes, mixed capitals, or both? I’m pretty sure they only capitalize first letters as in Nanjing, but do they write Renai or Ren’ai ?

That’s weird, in my previous post I only typed an apostrophe in the 2nd Renai, but it seems an apostrophe was auto-inserted … what’s going on!!!

The same thing happened in this post. What if I really do live on “Hot Milk St.” ???