Fri, Jan 14, 2000 - Page 12 News List


A last word on language

I agree with a recent commentary ("Romanization must strike a balance," Page 8, Jan. 9), that Taiwan's current romanization practices are flawed. In fact, the general misuse of the English language pains me as well.

As a teacher, I am embarrassed by the shoddy English translations found everywhere. However, the assertion that the use of Hanyu Pinyin romanization on street signs in Taiwan could affect national autonomy by suggesting to the rest of the world that Taiwan is part of China is ludicrous.

The linguists who made this assertion should descend from their ivory towers and witness how English is used in the real world of Taiwan.

English speakers in Taiwan care about consistency and accuracy. Foreigners in Taiwan would be more concerned about a poorly translated restaurant menu than the politics of the Hanyu pinyin system.

As to the locals, are students who wear T-shirts with English writing making political statements? Do the curious English phrases on scooters imply a political agenda? If you ask most Taiwanese, chances are they do not have the slightest idea what is written on their shirts or scooters, nor do they care.

Therefore, who will be offended if the street sign "中華" is written Chung-Hwa or Zhong Hua? As long as the orthodox Chinese characters are not replaced with Mao's simplified version, 99 percent of Taiwanese won't care.

Its disturbing enough to be bombarded with mundane English slogans like "Trust Me," but must language scholars abuse their academic authority to promote a value judgement? Instead of using phonology or morphology as a smoke screen, admit the fact: Hanyu pinyin is rejected in Taiwan for political reasons, not because it will make foreigners believe Taiwan is part of China.

Bunjay Su


More on language

Regarding the commentary by Vong Juin-taht ("Native languages enhance humanity," Page 8, Jan. 13), I have an indescribable feeling each time I hear place names announced on MRT trains here in Taipei. However, as a native English-speaker, my feelings are of incredulity and exasperation, rather than joy. While I have no objection to Mandarin, Hokkien or Hakka announcements on the MRT, I draw the line at the ludicrous Anglo-mangle that whines over the speakers at every station. Is this the best that the MRT administration can do to internationalize Taipei -- a form of mumbo-jumbo that nobody speaks? But do not take my word for it. Go out on the street and see how many Taiwanese people recognize the name "Tam-shoo- ee." (This is how I heard Tamshui pronounced at the Hsintien MRT station recently).

John Coomber


Mining `black gold'

Regarding the article on "black gold" ("Dissecting the black gold phenomenon," page 9, Jan. 13) the author offered an insightful analysis on the origins, structure and process of the "black gold" phenomenon in Taiwan. For most foreigners, including myself, it's hard to understand why a corrupt KMT, 12 years after Taiwan embarked democratic reform, could still maintain its hold on power given that it is still has to rely on "black gold" to do so. It seems to me that there are at least two reasons behind KMT's grip on power: first, Taiwan's electoral culture is not mature enough to create a whole new environment for cleaner politics. The elements of "guan-si"(personal connections) play a pivotal role. The vote-buying behavior and the connection between the government and conglomerates are products of tradition -- and serves to a large extent as the bedrock for "black gold." Second, although the KMT monopolizes most political and economic resources, the opposition forces, led mainly by the DPP, bear some responsibility for not educating the people about the importance of eradicating "black gold." What worries us more is the DPP's potential to become more like the KMT in terms of building its own network with local forces. When the leading opposition party teamed up with the KMT to pass a bill aimed at increasing salaries for village chiefs and town representative earlier this week, one could not help but wonder how this impacted on efforts to crackdown on "black gold" politics. If consolidating grassroots support is the only consideration in both parties accommodating those local power brokers, doesn't this contradict both Lien Chan's (連戰) and the DPP's backing of efforts to eliminate "black gold?"

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