Teaching pinyin

I would like to teach my students how to write Chinese names, addresses, etc. in (Hanyu) pinyin. I am sure you all know how dreadful most Taiwanese’ efforts at romanising anything are so I think it is important.

I would like to know if anybody has any experience or suggestions about the best way to teach this.

Head over to romanization.com and the rest should be pretty smooth. Most kids would have the same surnames anyway so wouldn’t take long, and Cranky’s site has most of the streets too. He’d probably only ask for a few cans in return too.

The Hanyu pinyin spelling system can be quickly mastered by any Chinese person who sits down with a table showing the pinyin alongside the zhuyin fuhao (bopomofo.) All the rules are there on just 3 pages of the pocket-sized Xinhua dictionary (pp 614-616 in my edition.)

Two-syllable names or surnames should be written joined up e.g. Ma Yingjiu, Chen Shuibian, Sima Qian (a historian, Sima was his surname.) There is a fiddly rule where you need an apostrophe to divide syllables, usually when the second syllable in a word begins with an A or an E, e.g. Li Qing’an (a Taiwanese woman politician) to make it clear than it is qing+an, not qin+gan. This kind of situation is not too common. Another example is Ren’ai Road to make it clear that it is “compassionate love” not “hot milk.” Tongyong pinyin deals with this by starting every syllable with a capital letter, but then capital letters lose their function of indicating a proper noun.

Taiwanese people seem to have difficulty distinguishing words ending in NG from those ending in N, although they are different in zhuyin fuhao.

I suggest you photocopy the relevant pages from a dictionary that has pinyin, or print out relevant pages from the internet. There must be something on www.romanization.com.

I will give free Hanyu pinyin lessons to anyone who doesn’t know it. Anybody who wants to take me up on that, just send me an Oriented private message.

As Amos and Juba mentioned, there are lots of comparison charts on my site. But to make things less complicated, I’ve added a Q&A page in Chinese about romanizing personal names.

www.romanization.com/hanyu/

I hope to have up a new site with more Chinese explanations within a few weeks. Stay tuned.

I love Hanyu Pinyin as much as the rest of you guys here (I point and laugh at signs in Tongyong. I can read the newspaper, but have refused to learn zhuyin on principle), but is teaching HP good for the students?

For the vast majority of students, they will only use HP for place and people’s names, and they’re only going to see “real world” romanization. As much as I would love to see 馬英九 spelled as Ma Yingjiu, it’s only going to confuse them if they see Ma Ying-jeou in every English source they encounter. Change as got to come from the top first.

I think learning pinyin could be very useful for the Taiwanese who learn a lot of English and want to live abroad. Several public schools near where I grew up in the US are scrambling around trying to hire Chinese teachers and there’s even a fully bilingual kindergarten being opened :astonished:

For anyone who does want to teach Chinese as a ticket to live in the west, familiarity with pinyin is key. The same goes for anyone who wants to work with foreign business people of moderate Chinese skill, do translation work, help a conversation partner learn Chinese, or a host of other things. Pinyin is so easy to learn that the benefits more than make up for the time investment.[/i]

It’s useful for adults who need to write in English and need to write place names in China.

I actually DISAGREE with the practice of the original poster. Most Taiwanese who have passports have their names written in a different Romanization system - Wade-Giles. That is a perfectly legitimate and legal system in Taiwan, even if you don’t like it - and personally I don’t.

There is also another system that some people choose to use, and that is Tongyong. That is the system that I prefer.

Unless the government MANDATES a system, I think you should be sensitive to what the student may already be using or to which system they may prefer. There are legitimate reasons for any students to prefer any of the three systems, and I believe that you should respect their wishes.

Don’t mistake apparent prevalence for preference.

Most Taiwanese do not have passports in Wade-Giles but in bastardized Wade-Giles. If they happen to have a passport name in proper Wade-Giles that is almost certainly simply because the spelling of their name didn’t require an apostrophe.

Moreover, in probably more than 99 percent of all cases the romanization system used is not a matter of informed consent or real preference. The spelling used is merely a reflection of what the passport applicant was told to use by someone who looked something up in a book or chart (that also very likely contained errors). The vast majority of Taiwanese don’t know any romanization system, as should be painfully obvious.

Also, during at least the later years of the Chen administration Taiwanese were not allowed to choose Hanyu Pinyin for the romanization of their names on passports, which, as I never tire of pointing out, is of course ironic in that the spelling of Chen Shui-bian’s name is distinctly Hanyu Pinyin.

Another point: the reference to “three systems” is very likely misleading unless you happen to be referring to the fact that Taiwan has had the following official romanization systems for Mandarin: Gwoyeu Romatzyh (amost never seen), MPS2 (prevalent but little recognized), and Tongyong Pinyin.

But this is an old, old thread…

[quote=“cranky laowai”]Don’t mistake apparent prevalence for preference.

Most Taiwanese do not have passports in Wade-Giles but in bastardized Wade-Giles. If they happen to have a passport name in proper Wade-Giles that is almost certainly simply because the spelling of their name didn’t require an apostrophe. [/quote]

Sorry, I should have said a modified Wade-Giles.

So it is appropriate for a teacher to replace that by forcing Hanyu Pinyin on them without any consent? I have taught in jurisdictions that use Hanyu pinyin and Tongyong pinyin officially. What good for me to teach Hanyu pinyin if they are going to see Tongyong on all of the signs. Of course, the city I live in uses Hanyu officially, but you will find modified Wade-Giles, MPS2, Hanyu, and my favorite, the Suibian (as you wish) pinyin.

I agree, the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese don’t know any system, but in the absense of an official system (and the sad but real political sensitivity of the issue), is it really appropriate for a foreign teacher to force his preferred system on others? I personally prefer Tongyong pinyin to Hanyu Pinyin, but it is not my right. When I am teaching place names in Taiwan or personal names, I usually teach all three systems and in the case of place names, I will indicate which one is official for the jurisdiction it applies to.

What is your source for this? When I applied for passports for my two daughters, Hanyu pinyin was most definately an option. We chose Tongyong pinyin, but Hanyu was definately an option.

I am referring to the three most commonly seen systems in most of Taiwan today: Modified Wade-Giles, Tongyong, and Hanyu.

But this is an old, old thread…[/quote][/quote]

Sorry, I should have said a modified Wade-Giles.[/quote]
Calling it “modified” is misleading. The form of Wade-Giles used by MOFA and Taiwan in general is not altered by design to meet legitimate linguistic needs but simply fucked up.

So it is appropriate for a teacher to replace that by forcing Hanyu Pinyin on them without any consent?[/quote]
Forcing students? What forcing? Or do you mean in the general sense of “Mom! Dad! That mean teacher tried to help me learn something today!”

Again with the “forcing.”

Also, I disagree that this is really a particularly sensitive issue, as opposed to an issue that some politicians have tried to inflate artificially into a big deal; but most people (and, yes, even many DPP politicians) really don’t particularly care regardless.

You teach students (or should that be “force students to learn”?) three romanization systems? Wow. I believe that goes well beyond anything anyone here has suggested. (FWIW, I think it would be great if students learned Wade-Giles, Hanyu Pinyin, and even Tongyong Pinyin. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to happen at the national level.)

You must be a close student of the issue to know all of the ins and outs of official jurisdictions.

What is your source for this? [/quote]
My own discussions on this topic with MOFA staff who actually process passport applications.

That’s very interesting. The person behind the desk specifically told you that you could use Hanyu Pinyin? Really? How long ago was this? I’d love to hear the details. (Really!)

Why is it mis-leading? It IS altered from the original format by removing those annoying apostrophes. Though, it does make for some additional confusion and I am not an advocate of it.

[quote]
Forcing students? What forcing? Or do you mean in the general sense of “Mom! Dad! That mean teacher tried to help me learn something today!” [/quote]

Forcing them to write their name in Hanyu pinyin? I think that is inappropriate, and that is what the original poster mentioned. I believe the individual student should be allowed to choose their pinyin system, and YES I do know people who definately have a preference and that preference should be respected in absense of a national mandate.

It is sensitive to some people. I have encountered this on numerous occasions with high school students and adult students. I agree that most don’t care, but there are some who do and they need to be respected.

THen they have the choice to use the one that they want, especially as it comes to personal names. I also give them the historical background of all three systems. I personally would like the government to choose a single system to use nationally - even if it were to be Hanyu, though I prefer Tongyong. I DO agree with you that I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

Well, considering that I typically only deal with two major jursdictions (Taichung City - Hanyu and Taichung County - Tongyong) it isn’t that difficult. If I am not sure, I simply look it up. Not that difficult.

[quote]
My own discussions on this topic with MOFA staff who actually process passport applications.
That’s very interesting. The person behind the desk specifically told you that you could use Hanyu Pinyin? Really? How long ago was this? I’d love to hear the details. (Really!)[/quote]

My younger daughter was three years ago. When I checked on the website, it gave all three options along with a translation matrix for each. On the application form, it simply told me to spell the names in English (pinyin). When I asked the MOFA representative if there was a preferred form, she said no. Since we had chosen Tongyong pinyin, it was not an issue, but I got absolutely no sense at all that Hanyu pinyin was not an option.

Why is it mis-leading? It IS altered from the original format by removing those annoying apostrophes. Though, it does make for some additional confusion and I am not an advocate of it.[/quote]
The apostrophes are linguistically necessary within Wade-Giles. (They’re necessary in Hanyu Pinyin as well, but for different reasons and are needed in fewer than 2 percent of Mandarin words.) Without them Wade-Giles is no longer a properly functioning romanization system. “Modifying” Wade-Giles by removing the apostrophes (and umlauts) and doing nothing to replace them is not unlike “modifying” car wheels by changing them from round to square.

Forcing them to write their name in Hanyu Pinyin? I think that is inappropriate, and that is what the original poster mentioned.[/quote]
No, the original poster said nothing of the kind. For those who don’t want to bother going back one page, here is what he said:

[quote=“wix”]I would like to teach my students how to write Chinese names, addresses, etc. in (Hanyu) Pinyin. I am sure you all know how dreadful most Taiwanese’ efforts at romanising anything are so I think it is important.

I would like to know if anybody has any experience or suggestions about the best way to teach this.[/quote]
That is not forcing anyone to write their own names in Hanyu Pinyin. No one has advocated that in this thread. I don’t understand why you keep bringing up this straw man.

My younger daughter was three years ago. When I checked on the website, it gave all three options along with a translation matrix for each. On the application form, it simply told me to spell the names in English (Pinyin). When I asked the MOFA representative if there was a preferred form, she said no. Since we had chosen Tongyong Pinyin, it was not an issue, but I got absolutely no sense at all that Hanyu Pinyin was not an option.[/quote]
Thanks for the additional detail.

I’m not sure which particular Web page you’re referring to. If MOFA’s romanization guidelines give Hanyu Pinyin I’d love to see this.

I note, however, that your story has changed. Before you wrote (twice) that using Hanyu Pinyin on your daughters’ passports was “definately an option.” Now you state that you got “absolutely no sense at all that Hanyu Pinyin was not an option.” These are not the same.

Let me stress again what I have heard. I have had more than one discussion specifically about this topic with MOFA staff in charge of processing ROC passport applications. And I was specifically told that Hanyu Pinyin was not being permitted on new applications. These were instructions that had come down from on high; although they were not formal in the sense of being on official documents they were nonetheless quite real in terms of how things were handled.

Under Taiwan’s chabuduo approach, some specifically Hanyu Pinyin spellings that do not cry out their origin with Qs, Xs, or ZHs (e.g. “Chen Shui-bian”) might go through without notice. And of course some more obviously Hanyu names might slip through the cracks on a busy day. But as much as I would like to believe the policy changed to allow Hanyu Pinyin spellings during the Chen administration, unless I hear specific, credible evidence to the contrary, I will continue to go by the information I received earlier directly from the source.

It’s likely that under the new administration the policy has changed and people are now being allowed to choose. But I doubt there will be much change without more people learning one or more romanization systems, so I applaud your efforts to teach these to your students.

If anyone is still looking for a website with pinyin and bopomofo side by side, you can try my site.

chinese-lessons.com/mandarin … th_f/a.htm

I split off some posts without relevance to teaching pinyin to the Learning Chinese forum:

forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopi … 804#870804