Taipei’s MRT system began featuring Hoklo and Hakka announcements of the Taipei Arena (小巨蛋) station name on Sunday, following months of controversy over whether translations could be provided for the station.
Since the station opened in November, it has been the exception to the Taipei MRT’s practice of announcing station names in four languages: Mandarin, Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese, Hakka and English.
Instead of employing Hoklo and Hakka, the system until Sunday repeated the station’s name in Mandarin twice, which netizens described as “needle skipping.”
The system did not initially broadcast the station’s name in Hoklo because it sounded “inelegant,” said Chou Hsiang-kuei (周湘魁) a division chief at the Department of Rapid Transit Systems.
Chou said Taipei followed a precedent set by Greater Kaohsiung, which uses Mandarin only to announce the name of the Kaohsiung Arena (高雄大巨蛋).
The two venues use the same Chinese characters.
News footage from the time shows a Kaohsiung crowd roaring with laughter when Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) attempts to say the name of the venue in Hoklo during its dedication ceremony.
The original pronunciation used by Chen was “disgraceful” and “vulgar,” using an oral pronunciation for the Chinese characters that made the place name sound like a Hoklo term for “testicles,” said Maggy Yan (張嘉讌) a lecturer in medical Hoklo at the Taipei Medical University, who advised the Department of Rapid Transportation Systems on the new broadcast.
“Hoklo pronunciation can be divided into literary and oral pronunciations,” she said. “For places, people, stations and companies, the convention is to use the literary pronunciation [of the Chinese characters].”
The new recording avoids the vulgar homonym by using the literary Hoklo pronunciation for the station’s name, she said.
The government is required to provide Hoklo and Hakka announcements of station names in all public transportation under the Act Ensuring the Equality of Language Use in Mass Transportation and Broadcasting (大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法), Yan said.
More than 80 percent of Taiwanese households use at least some Hoklo at home, according to a 2010 census.
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