Sun, Jan 11, 2004 - Page 8 News List


Too many pinyin systems

In your report on the protest about the MRT's new romanization system ("Protesters want uniform English on MRT signage," Jan 1, Page 22), Lee Shang-shien (李尚賢) of the Taiwan Lily Culture Association is quoted as saying that the Taipei City Government changed all the English signs to Hanyu Pinyin without consulting the county government, which showed disrespect for the county government.

"The situation that English signs in Taiwan show inconsistent romanization, with most places using Tongyong Pinyin but some using Hanyu Pinyin, boils down to virtually `one China, two systems,'" he said.

Lee said that the city government's excuse that Hanyu Pinyin is the romanization system designated by the UN is not correct.

"I don't understand why Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) insisted to adopt Hanyu Pinyin, which is used in China, even though the central government made its policy on the use of Tongyong Pinyin clear," Lee said.

Did Ma Ying-jeou (Hanyu Pinyin: Ma Ying-jiu) really "disrespect" the decisions of the Taipei County Government? I simply can't be sure, but let's take a closer look at the rest of the argument and see how things balance out: The "one China, two systems" argument thrown into that mix is simply a huge red herring. As I recall, the policy of the central government is to give local governments the freedom to decide which system they would use. While there has supposedly been "a system" in place in Taiwan for a long time, I can only echo my earlier remarks regarding the ridiculous "one street, five or six so-called systems." Any form of standardization would be an improvement, but let's make the right choice.

It only makes sense for Taipei -- the most "international" city in Taiwan -- to use the system which is the international standard. Ma must keep in mind that the romanization is done specifically for people who can't read Chinese characters and that there are many other ways for Taiwan to promote its own identity.

I'll tell you what -- if those locals who would oppose Hanyu Pinyin do so because of its association with China, they had better also give up spoken and written Mandarin for fear of appearing two-faced. Otherwise, making Taiwan more "user-friendly" for foreign visitors will improve its standing.

Andrew Hokanson

Taichung City

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