Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday said he considered it unnecessary to insist that people write the first of the two Chinese characters for “Taiwan” in full traditional form (臺), as the simplified form (台) requires fewer strokes and is used by more people.
Some people prefer the character written in traditional form, while others favor writing it using the simplified form, Wu said, adding that he “respected people’s right to choose.”
“As long as people who write the character do so properly and those who read it know what it is, each form is fine. [Writing using the variant character] has been established by [customary] usage,” Wu said.
Wu made the remarks while commenting on a recent policy by the Ministry of Education to replace the simplified form of the character printed in the ministry’s literature and textbooks with the traditional form, a goal the ministry said it hoped to accomplish by the end of next year.
The ministry said students who wrote the character using the simplified form in national exams or entrance exams would not have grades deducted.
“Writing the character in traditional form is not compulsory, even in school exams,” said Chen Hsueh-yu (陳雪玉), executive secretary of at the ministry’s National Languages Committee. “What we seek to accomplish, however, is to encourage institutions and schools under the ministry to use the character written in its traditional form.”
After the ministry studied the origin of the character, it decided that the tai in the name Taiwan should be written in traditional form rather than its simplified counterpart, Chen said.
“It’s not that people who are used to writing Taiwan using the simplified form for the first character are wrong per se, but from an educational standpoint, we advocate traditional characters and are duty bound to make that clearly understood by teachers and students,” Chen said.
Earlier this year, the ministry reaffirmed its commitment to teaching traditional characters in the nation’s classrooms after a parent complained that his child had been assigned the study of simplified characters for homework.
The ministry’s Department of Elementary Education said at the time that promoting traditional Chinese characters in school had always been — and remained — the ministry’s policy.
“Traditional Chinese characters are important cultural assets. Their significance as documented in historical documents is unquestionable,” the department said.
“Traditional Chinese characters should be adopted in school, in textbooks and teaching assignments since their promotion is a national policy,” it said.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) sparked controversy last year when he said that Taiwan and China should come to an agreement on the use of Chinese characters, prompting angry responses from both sides of the political spectrum.
The People’s Republic of China introduced the simplified form of Chinese characters in the 1950s and 1960s to help combat illiteracy in the country.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER