Originally posted by LJ:
However, to facilitate my learning my boyfriend (who is Taiwanese) has taught me zhuyin.
Recently, a stranger, who saw me studying the zhuyin said it was stupid, a waste of time, just a political ploy, etc… (He was a Korean who had lived 4 years in Taiwan). What do others think?
I wouldn’t call it stupid, that’s a decision everyone has to make for him/herself. It would be kind of wasted time if you never have the chance to use it, but if you are living in Taiwan, such chances are plenty every day. However, you should also learn Pinyin, because that is the way most of the world outside Taiwan communicates in/about Chinese when not using chinese characters.
I actually find it easier to figure out pronounciations by learning the zhuyin first. With pinyin I find myself more likely to think of the pronounciation of the letter as it is heard in English. Because the zhuyin is so different from what I’m used to, I learned it without any preconcieved ideas of what that “letter” should sound like.
Zhuyin is a phonetic transcription of Mandarin as is Pinyin, but while Pinyin uses common latin characters Zhuyin has created its own. Did you know how to pronounce a Zhuyin character when you first saw them? No, someone had to tell you - and the same applies to Pinyin. Get someone who tells you the correct pronounciation of Pinyin, chances are your boyfriend will not know. And if you don’t know the exact pronounciation, the system (no matter which one) will not be of great use to you.
I guess I’m ultimately confused as to why/how all these different systems started. And, why people can’t just agree on one. Can someone tell me?
Why do we have different tv standards? Why are there new standards for computer hardware every few months? Why do railway tracks not have the same size world wide? There can be many reasons: Progress of science or technology, monetary reasons, political,…
As long as it is a technical standard, discussing the matter is still relatively easy. Unfortunately, a transcription system may also include the “feeling that it fits” - and feelings are a different matter. At some point in history, people wrote “Nanking”, according to Wade/Giles it probably should be “Nanching”(?) and in Pinyin it is “Nanjing”. Taiwan claims to apply Wade/Giles, but as it is not taught at schools almost no-one can use it and therefor, we could probably spot a few more variations here.
To get even through the wildest jungle of romanized Chinese, I would recommend to have at least a look at all systems, but really important are only two: Pinyin (worldwide) and Zhuyin (in Taiwan). As for the others…
Wade/Giles: What you see in Taiwan is almost never Wade/Giles but a wild puzzle of latin characters resembling something different for each person looking at it. (Its a bit like you would see a restaurant with “French Breakfast” written above the door - do you think they will serve french breakfast?)
Yale: Almost never mentioned even in the hot debates here on oriented.org
, so of no greater importance in Taiwan.
Tong Yong: Who said “Yehova”? Tong Yong is the proof that a transcription system also has its political component. There are people in Taiwan fighting the transcription system mostly used worldwide (Hanyu Pinyin), because “it is from Mainland China”. They will not always give you this (real) reason, but speak about the “shortcomings” of Pinyin and about the “special conditions” in Taiwan. If Tong Yong were a computer program, it would be a “system under development”. They almost completed the alpha phase and will enter the beta stage soon. (Or did they already?) Beta testers are the people of Taiwan, but probably, participation will be voluntary as with Wade/Giles. I think I should mention that this would be proprietary software…
So, to put it into one sentence: Learning Zhuyin is ok, but you should definitely get someone who really knows Pinyin and learn that too - anything else is optional, at least in the beginning.