As people who’ve been on these forums for any length of time already know, I think everyone should move to full use of hanyu pinyin for Mandarin. Realistically speaking, however, that’s not going to happen in the immediate future. Nonetheless, the romanization situation in Taiwan is so bad that I propose the following: that everyone – and, more importantly, all publications – immediately adopt those place names (and other types of names, as appropriate) that are compatible in hanyu pinyin and tongyong pinyin. (The two systems are of course incompatible, despite ludicrous claims to the contrary by some tongyong supporters. But about half of Mandarin words are spelled the same in the two systems.)
Until a time of greater resolution of the situation (which certainly won’t come before the next presidential election), incompatible spellings can be left in the old mishmash in publications.
Yes, that would entail people using more than one system. But since the current de facto “standard” of bastardized Wade-Giles is largely useless and misleading anyway, I believe a partial change to a reasonable standard would represent not a step toward confusion but one toward clarity. After all, the spellings are ultimately going to be either in hanyu or tongyong, so we might as well get started with the names that will be the same either way.
Here are a few examples:
[ul][li]“Taitung” (which should properly be written “T’ai-tung” in Wade-Giles) is Taidong in both hanyu pinyin and tongyong pinyin, and so would become Taidong[/li]
[li]“Taichung,” which is Taizhong in hanyu pinyin and Taijhong in the current (but not older) version of tongyong, would thus remain Taichung in most documents for the time being. [/li]
[li]“Ilan” is Yilan in both tongyong and hanyu and so should become Yilan. [/li][/ul]
For places within Taipei, I recommend using hanyu pinyin and only hanyu pinyin, because the city government has been relatively effective about putting up new signage.
To help people know which words are the same in tongyong and hanyu, I’ve written a compatibility checker for hanyu pinyin and tongyong pinyin words.
About half of all Mandarin words are different in the two systems.
The only “compatible” place name I would advise leaving as is for now would be Taipei (which should properly be “Taibei”).
I would like to see this adopted by all of the magazines, newspapers, etc.
What do the rest of you think (especially those of you who work in the media sector)?