Pinyin Wars Part VI: The Sound & the Fury

Simplified is definitely easier to write. But I learned simplified before I learned complex, and I still find complex much easier to read. And aesthetically speaking, simplified characters are just plain ugly. That’s probably what hurts my eyes the most.

So I am constantly using my phone to improve my chinese reading. I can read only about 800 characters. I plan on being in Taiwan for the next 2.5 years and then moving on to Singapore or the US? I have continued to try and study simplified on my phone and bone up on traditional while helping my kids learn chinese for school.

Do you think it makes sense for me to try and study traditional, or do you think I should continue with simplified?

In that case, I would make a point of reading both. It hardly takes much extra effort, and the more you get used to how characters are simplified, the easier it gets.

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Yeah, I’ve been testing myself on the simplified and noting the traditional. Unfortunately, the reading apps I use don’t show both, so I have to toggle them. Maybe I’ll try reading each article twice, one in simplified once in traditional. It’s just a little tiring knowing that in 2.5 years all that information will become useless.

That should bring you up to speed really quick. And I wouldn’t say the information will be useless. You can keep up with events in Taiwan by reading newspaper articles online.

I don’t see it as the ‘best examples’ in favour of Tongyong as so much as Tongyong is based off Hanyu Pinyin. Since 80% of Tongyong is the same as Hanyu, Those aren’t the best examples, they’re almost all of the examples. I see it as fixing some of the shortcomings on translating the names, but it doesn’t go far enough due to the Italian-sounding Cs like Cie, Ciao, Ci, Cyue. If you want my opinion. I think we could go further and create actual names for these places in English if they’re so obsessed with adding English to the official languages roster like HK does.

Why can’t Banciao be Woodbridge?
Tucheng could be Landton
Danshui could be Freshwater

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Or we could just standardize to Hanyu Pinyin and make life easier for everyone.

Problem solved. Next! :sunglasses:

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32 posts were merged into an existing topic: Anglicising Taiwan’s Place Names

There’s no such thing as a perfect system here. For some sounds, no symbol will be able to transmit accurate phonetic information to speakers of all languages. There will always be some learning curve.

That’s very charitable :slight_smile: I’d say:

Blues: it’s what China uses
Greens: it’s what China uses


But that’s what the name actually means.

It literally means plank bridge, but Woodbridge is already the name of a dissolved town in Canada.

Like Hong Kong. Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣
Admiralty 金鐘

I 100% agree. That’s why I’m not too worried about nitpicking on Hanyu Pinyin’s shortfalls in natural pronunciation. It’s a romanization. In many cases, the naturally prompted pronunciation is reasonably close to true Mandarin pronunciation. In others, it falls short. But once you learn it, it works just as well as any other romanization.

I’d say:
Pro-Hanyu Pinyin: It’s what EVERYONE uses (Chinese, international Chinese, Chinese language learners, international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, etc.)
Anti-Hanyu Pinyin: It’s what China uses.

That’s very charitable :slight_smile: You didn’t say Blues though, so to some degree you are correct

Agree, it’s fine for representing Mandarin pronunciation in any situation IMO. But there can be other concerns.

There are many problems with Tongyong. One chief problem can be described in a cartoon I once saw that went something like this:

  1. Problem: There are 14 competing standards.
  2. Solution: Let’s come up with a new standard to iron out the inconsistencies.
  3. Result: There are 15 competing standards.

The other major problem is that nobody uses it. Taiwanese people don’t use it. Foreigners, when they study Chinese, learn Hanyu Pinyin (or perhaps Yale, or less commonly, Wade-Giles). As such, phrases on interpretive signs that say “Cing Dynasty” are just plain ridiculous, because in the English-speaking world, we use “Qing Dynasty” in modern texts; “Ching Dynasty” or “Ch’ing Dynasty” in older texts.


I can agree with that, however, I’ve never seen a people more obsessed with learning English than Taiwan, yet get it so wrong 90% of the time.

It’s obvious that any form of Pinyin isn’t used here by the locals and that its use is an afterthought slapped on to be more international to attract foreign tourists.

Let’s just go all the way. At the very least, most non-English western towns have either easy to pronounce names or officially translated names like Rome, Milan, Naples…

With some notable exceptions like Wrzeszczewice Skrejnia.

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Agreed. So they should use the internationally accepted way to romanize Chinese words. That is the most convenient thing for foreign tourists. Almost any Chinese travel guidebook or pocket guide to Taiwan will make use of Hanyu Pinyin in some way…because that’s what everyone uses.

That’s just not going to happen.


Right, but Joe Schmoe isn’t familiar with the particularly different uses of the letters in Chinese romanisation as much as he would be with Japan cause Japanese romanisation at least follows the basic rules of roman letters. People can read maps of Japan quite easily without any training. Pinyin wasn’t made with foreign tourism in mind in 1958 China. So attempting to use it in a place where it wasn’t meant to be used is…wrong IMO.

There are only three countries that have Chinese as their official language. China, Taiwan, Singapore. The only reason why it’s an international standard is because they are so massive and influential. This makes the ‘International standard’ decided by ONE country alone.

I just feel like you are putting too much emphasis on romanization’s ability to convey accurate Chinese pronunciation without any training. I don’t think that’s the most important role. Standardization is far more important. There is no romanization that can adequately prompt accurate pronunciation from a non-trained individual. Just focus on using the version that is most widely accepted and used.


Or whichever version meets your local needs better.

Standard Japanese isn’t phonemically challenging on the same level as any kind of Chinese. Japanese has some phonemes that technically don’t exist in (say) English, but the closest equivalents serve the purpose well enough, e.g. [f] for [ɸ], hence romaji “f”.

In Mandarin, you’ve got more vowels than you can fit in the Roman alphabet, you’ve got phonemes that cause confusion even for native speakers (/s/ vs. /sh/ and so on), and of course you’ve got tones, and you’ve got more homophones than anyone can keep track of. And you’ve got multiple romanizations, and even the archaic ones are still influential (Peking and all that), whereas that’s rarely an issue for Japanese. So I really don’t blame tourists for struggling more with Chinese maps than with Japanese ones.

As a general rule, in the 21st century, local economies need global connectivity in order to thrive.