Romanization, part 216

This week the Ministry of Education is due (again) to announce its decision (again) on romanization. (I’ve heard the decision has already been reached, but I haven’t been able to confirm that yet.)

Given what happened to the previous minister of education, who tried to back hanyu pinyin, and the general lack of understanding in officialdom of the nature of tongyong, I think approval of the sham known as tongyong pinyin is a foregone conclusion.

My understanding of the situation is that the debate, rather than being over, will then shift to the county and municipal level.

Perhaps now is a good time to reread Poagao’s “top story” from a few months ago:

Stay tuned.

Part 216 already? Hey, that’s better than “Dallas”! Although, with 26 (or even a few more) acting characters, this one has a larger (but cheaper) cast then Dallas. (At least I think so - its been a long time…) Anyway: Who got the movie rights on this?

quote[quote]My understanding of the situation is that the debate, rather than being over, will then shift to the county and municipal level.[/quote]

…and may from there very well return to the government. Now that they are in charge of the problem, some mayor or village head will probably try to point out how “international” (and especially “more international than others”) his community is and apply some wierd system no-one can understand. (OK, wouldn’t be that much different from now…) But this could become a nice field of competition between different communities and only after the “war on romanisation” has claimed enough victims, media reports will press the government to get involved. Which starts the next season - ehm: cycle, cycle was the word…

Well Cranky, you guessed right because today’s papers report that the MOE has announced that Tongyong Pinyin will be the romanisation sysytem for Taiwan

All this means is that nothing will change. It would be like deciding not to build the MRT, or saying “Let’s just keep using the old Taipei Train Station-it’s good enough.” Taiwan has “adopted” many unusual and useless romanization systems in the past; this is just the latest one, and will no doubt just be added to the mix; Taiwan will still be a laughingstock, and the rest of the world will continue to use Hanyu Pinyin. Cranky’s right; did anyone really expect any other result?

All you can do as an individual is keep insisting on using (or quietly slipping in when nobody’s looking) the international standard in order to keep your trade company/business/organization from looking foolish in international communications (And, of course, join a guerilla sign-changing group).

None of the stories were as complete as they should have been, though I think the Taipei Times did the worst job of the three, esp. by repeating as fact the nonsense that hanyu and tongyong are 85 percent the same. (It and the China Post used only translations rather than publish their own stories. Can it be after this long that the editors of those papers believe this story is of only minor interest to their readers?!)

Is the Taipei Times going to allow letters now about the issue and its own poor coverage of it, or will it continue to stick its head in the sand? A reminder: Quite some time ago the Taipei Times officially cut off all debate of the matter in its letters to the editor section.

Taipei Times

Taiwan News

China Post

Originally posted by cranky laowai: A reminder: Quite some time ago the Taipei Times officially cut off all debate of the matter in its letters to the editor section.

I personally am tired of the debate too. It’s not like anyone has anything new to say.

And yes, I favor Hanyu Pinyin.

Without a clear and well-reasoned examination of the matter, much of what passes for discussion is just noise. And I’m tired of the noise, too. Oh, am I ever tired of it.

But that doesn’t mean any kind of general clarity on the situation has been reached (because it hasn’t) or that there aren’t new things to say (because there are). Some of this is because the tongyong supporters keep shifting their arguments (and system!); some is because the Ministry of Education has never allowed a proper public debate. Mainly, however, the problem is that things that just aren’t so keep getting repeated as if they were true.

As long as misunderstandings and sometimes outright lies are repeated by those who have power over the issue and by the media, it will be necessary to counter this. The problem will not go away by ignoring it.

Then there’s the fact that people are taking very different approaches to the issue. The simple aspects of this have been needlessly complicated, while the complicated aspects of the debate have generally been dumbed down to little better than absurd posturing.

Local media is now reporting that although the Mandarin Promotion Council will recomend the Tongyong system, Taipei Mayor Ma will refuse and instead us Hanyu for the city.
Where letters are different in the two similar systems, the Tongyong will be represented in parenthesis.
– Hot off the pre-press…

Well, according to official statements that there is no law to demand a certain romanisation system - he can do so. Reminds me of the recent orthography reform in Germany, where the highest court ruled that the spelling of the german language is the decision of each state, not of the federal government.
Hmm, if Tongyong is 85% the same as Hanyu Pinyin… Why not “invent” our own system? It will look very similar to Hanyu Pinyin, but if you look closer, there’s a huge difference: The first letter of each syllable is uppercase! Yes, I know, the Mainlanders are doing that too sometimes - of course they copied our idea! Now we only need a taiwan-friendly name for it…

Live discussion about romanization on TVBS right now (10 p.m.)

There is a romanization debate going on, but I will remain like
Buddha, floating above, as my website contains my schpiel already.

Nah. Instead I will star in today [2002.7.21]'s Taiwan Ribao, as a
Taiwan Independence freedom fighter who supports Hanyu Pinyin.
Someone called me and said there’s much more than this. I will have
to check further… [no papers on this hilltop.]

Originally posted by wolf_reinhold: Taipei Mayor Ma will refuse and instead us Hanyu for the city. Where letters are different in the two similar systems, the Tongyong will be represented in parenthesis.

Ma Yingjiu is just taking the piss. He knows his city administration is way ahead of the idiots in central government - all they have to do is bide their time until the DPP get kicked out in the next presidential election.

There are 26 people in the committee that took the pro-“Tongyong” decision, but only ten of them were there when the vote was taken, and all ten voted the same way. Funny kind of democracy they have here.

I caught the latter half of the pinyin debate on TVBS last night. I would like to draw everyone’s attention to one of the people on the panel - Hugh Lin Zhengxiu, who is head of the Taibei City Government’s Bureau of Civil Affairs (Minzhengju.) Lin, who is a Hakka, was arguing very strongly in favour of Hanyu pinyin. Lin has a PhD in urban planning, something Taiwan needs desperately. He is an environmental activist and member of the Green Party. Lin is a very forward thinking person and someone to keep an eye on, if you ask me.
Hugh Lin Zhengxiu

Apparently some Heads in the Ministry of Education are going to roll due to the decision to adopt the Tong-Yong (or is it “Tung-Yung” or “Toing-Yeong”) romanization system!

This is according to reports in today’s papers!!

If the officials at MOE would regularly log on to ORIENTED (all caps) they would be much more in tune with the feelings of the local people (and foreigners) here!!!

Well I sent a letter to the Taipei Times (for what it’s worth, I doubt they’ll print it - maybe I should send to the other two rags, but I’m too lazy to search for their e-mail addresses).

Anyway, it’s an attempt to address the kind of response that goes “OK you’ve convinced me, maybe pinyin is better and more international and truly standard, but we just can’t choose it for political reasons”

Dear Sir,

The government has made a cowardly choice in selecting Tongyong over Pinyin for the romanisation of Chinese. If the DPP administration is truly pro-localisation, they should choose Pinyin. “Wait”, I hear you say, “Pinyin is the Chinese system favoured by the pro-unification camp, and Tongyong is the Taiwanese system favoured by the pro-localisation group.”

Well I’m in favour of localisation, and I support Pinyin for two reasons. Firstly, Pinyin is not just the system used in China, it is the system for writing Chinese with Roman (ABC) letters used everywhere in the world except Taiwan. All foreign students of Chinese, newspapers, academic journals and books about China use Pinyin these days. Why on earth does Taiwan want to go and cut itself off from the rest of the world because of its conflict with China? Do we use a ‘different’ Internet with 85% compatible web addresses just because we don’t want to use the same system as China?

Secondly, choosing Tongyong is a sign of cowardice. To anyone who has studied the issue, it is quite obvious that for practical purposes Pinyin is the best choice. Unfortunately some people argue that there are more important political considerations. By choosing Pinyin, the argument goes, Taiwan will somehow be admitting that it is part of Communist China. Are we so afraid of what China thinks? Can’t we make a decision like this without worrying that it might have some hidden unificationist purpose? Choosing Tongyong is really just allowing ourselves to make the wrong decision because we’re afraid of China’s bullying.

I hope the Taiwanese Government will stand up and choose the best system because it is the best, not becuase they’re afraid. At the same time we should be proud that we have retained Chinese culture through the use of traditional characters. This is proof enough that we do things differently than China.

Brian Rawnsley

Originally posted by Bu Lai En: ...Tongyong over Pinyin...

Woops, Brian - You have made a fundamental mistake here. Pinyin just means spelling. Tongyong pinyin and Hanyu pinyin are both pinyin. It’s not tongyong versus pinyin, it’s tongyong pinyin versus Hanyu pinyin. The con trick is in the word “tongyong,” which means “universal” - it isn’t.

The coverage of this story is incredibly awful. The Times can’t even get its facts straight, continuing the old mistake about the 85% similarity, blaming their old enemy Mayor Ma for throwing a monkeywrench into a perfectly smooth process, and then printing a letter from someone in Ohio who says Taiwan should use any system except for that of evil red commie China. I wonder, is their position on this subject being forced down the foreign copyeditor/reporters’ throats?

The News story is even worse, if that’s possible. Choosing to simply ignore the fact that there’s any debate whatsoever, they just print “MOE hopes decision will end debate”. Who knows what planet they’re living on, but it sure ain’t in this solar system.

quote[quote] Woops, Brian - You have made a fundamental mistake here. Pinyin just means spelling. Tongyong pinyin and Hanyu pinyin are both pinyin. It's not tongyong versus pinyin, it's tongyong pinyin versus Hanyu pinyin. The con trick is in the word "tongyong," which means "universal" - it isn't [/quote]

Yeah I know. I was trying to simplify. the Times had used Pinyin vs Tongyong so I just followed their lead. I mean, Hanyu Pinyin jsut means Chinese Spelling right, and I didn’t want to write Da Lu Pinyin, becuase that would work against my argument.


Better not follow the Taipei Times’ lead on this, or you’ll end up talking gibberish. A lot of people are doing their best to cloud the issue, so our response has to be to make things crystal clear.

I just want to throw something out here. It seems that most foreigners who support Hanyu Pinyin have either (A) studied Chinese in China or (B) studied Chinese in Taiwan using Hanyu Pinyin, not bopomofo.

I don’t buy the argument that Hanyu is easier for foreigners. Why are “sh” sounds represented by “xi”? Someone completly unfamiliar with Chinese seeing “Xiamen” in print for the first time almost invariably doesn’t know how to pronounce it.

Most people who have lived in Taiwan for a while will no doubt be able to get around regardless of what system is used.

But will someone fresh off the boat be able to pronounce “XinSheng” to a cab driver if they don’t know to replace the “x” with a “sh”?

quote[quote]Why not "invent" our own system? [/quote]

Actually…I studied Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City for a year and tried to apply the Romanization of that language to Mandarin. It worked very well.
I can’t show you the Romanization here but there are marks for changes in vowels and tones. It is a very easy system to learn and you can pronounce words AND their tones.
I doubt that may people here know how to read Vietnamese, but if anyone out there does, try using it to write Mandarin (and then read it aloud) and you will be surprised at the results.