Wed, Jan 12, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Letters:

Nation, not `island'

It is time to stop calling Taiwan an "island," as most Chinese-language media around the country still do. True, Taiwan is technically an island. But so too are Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Iceland and Japan -- and the Chinese-language media never refers to them as "islands" but as countries, nations.

The point I want to make is that since President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) referred to the "state-to-state" model on July 9, 1999 -- Taiwan should now be referred to as a "nation," a "country."

For example, instead of referring to an "islandwide" public opinion poll, let's refer to it as a "nationwide" poll. Instead of writing "teachers across the island have voted...," let's say "teachers across the nation have voted ..."

Recently, a noted politician was quoted as saying: "To make the most of the island's limited resources ... "

But does Tony Blair ever refer to Britain as an "island?" No, Britain is always referred to as a "nation."

It's time to get rid of this "island mentality" and move toward a better sense of national identity.

While the Japanese also suffer from a so-called "island mentality" and sometimes use this term to explain their so-called "uniqueness," we all know Japan is a nation of some 125 million people.

Now is the time for the media to refer to Taiwan as a nation of 22 million people. Let's put the full force of Lee's remarks into effect. Think big, think "state- to-state," think sovereignty, think nation, country, polity. The time has come for all politicians, wire service reporters and statesmen, here and overseas, to stop referring to Taiwan as an island.

Taiwan cannot develop a true national identity as long as it remains imprisoned in the "island mentality" of the past. For young people, especially, having and developing a sense of national identity is vital for the future of this country. Taiwan, be ambitious!

John Todd

Taipei

Before putting up that sign

Much controversy has been raised about transliteration using Latin alphabets, or the romanization of street signs in Taipei ("Romanization must strike a balance," page 8, Jan. 9). I have been involved in transliteration issues for some years, working with Dr Cheng Liang-wei of Hawaii and Dr Yu Boquan of the Academia Sinica in Taipei and experts from the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). Here are some things I have noticed:

1. Nomenclature:

Before romanizing the street signs, first de-Sinicize them.

Opponents of using Hanyu Pinyin in Taiwan have said that using q's and x's and zh's on street signs challenges Taiwan's sovereignty and makes the casual traveler mistake Taipei for another PRC city.

Then what about street names such as Songjiang Road or Dihua Street? These make travelers think that they have traveled back in time to the Republican China of the 1940s, with streets named after now-nonexistent place names of that period. Any mayor with some sense of local identity would have wanted to change these names a long time ago.

There is no lack of new names for streets: the flora and fauna of Taiwan (black bear, lilies, the camphor tree); districts and counties (Sinchhuk/Hsinchu, the Pescadores/Penghu); the Formosan tribes (Thao, Kavalan, Sediq); or the 44 sister cities of Taipei (Ho Chi Minh, Ulan-Ude, Ulan Bator).

2. Ethnolinguistics:

Write the names according to local pronunciations, not just Mandarin.

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