Thu, Jan 06, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Letters

Romanization of names

One of the things that I like about the Taipei Times is that unlike the other English-language papers in Taiwan, you provide Chinese characters after proper names and certain phrases in your articles. While you are to be commended for doing this, at the same time it also highlights the miserable job that you are doing in Romanizing Chinese names.

As you know, there are two main Romanization systems -- Wade Giles and Pinyin. You appear to be using the Wade Giles system. However, every single day I can locate numerous mistakes.

To be fair, Romanization is a tough business in Taiwan. The people who are the most creative in it are the Taiwanese themselves. Particularly vexing are the creative Romanizations that become sanctified with their inclusion in the ROC Yearbook.

Nevertheless, just because you are afloat in a sea of incompetence does not mean that you have to go with the tide. At the very least I am sure your readers would appreciate it if you could be consistent.

One wonders, for instance, why yesterday's Yan Xuetong became today's Yen Xuetong.

Should I expect to have the buy the Taipay Tymes tomorrow?

Liam C. Kelley

Taipei

EDITOR'S NOTE:

While I agree that this newspaper's editing could be improved when it comes to the consistency of our Roman-ization of Chinese names, most of the cases you "find every single day" originate with other sources -- usually the person whose name is misspelled. For example, if Annette Lu wants to write her name without an umlaut, or Chen Hui-hsin(g) can't distinguish "hs" from "sh" ... we are still bound by their own spellings, since these are their "legal/passport" names. Besides, it is only respectful that we print their names the way that they have chosen to spell them. Name spelling is a very personal matter, as a glance at an American phone book, full of European names changed beyond recognition over the centuries, would tell you.

Anthony Lawrance

Managing Editor

License to complain

I wanted to get a Taiwan driver's license, really I did.

I had heard that if you had a valid license from the US you needed only to show up at the motor vehicle department, show it to them and they would smilingly make out one for Taiwan.

This turned out to be true to some extent. You can indeed get a local license if you happen to hold a US license from the state of Virginia, New Mexico or Missouri.

My North Dakota license, unfortunately, was not acceptable. Only those three states have "reciprocity," I was told.

What sort of reciprocity are we talking about here anyway? A driver's license from one US state is good in any other; the driving laws are standard. So what is it about these three states that make them so special?

I have never lived in any of these states and therefore have never held one of their driver's licenses. I can only assume that they must have some sort of special requirements, like taking the test in Chinese or showing a highly-developed sense of poor driving etiquette or some such thing.

Since swapping credentials was out of the question, I was told that I could take a written and driving test to get my Taiwan license. I asked if the test is in English. It is. There was only one problem: the study booklet is in Chinese.

Feeling like I was going to be the thousandth person to go through this, I asked if there was an English version. Oh sure, ...and the tooth fairy will bring it to you straight away.

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