Monday, 13 October 2008

More on Romanisation of Chinese Characters

Romanisation of Chinese characters in Taiwan is a bit complicated. The "world standard" if there is one is hanyu pinyin, which the government here (KMT) has just declared the official system. The previous govt. (DPP) under Chen Shui Bian was fiercely nationalist and anti mainland China (considered them the communist enemy) and didn't wan't to use the system used by mainland China so stupidly decided to make up their own system called tongyong pinyin. The system itself has both advantages and disadvantages over hanyu pinyin, but as hanyu has become standard in non Chinese speaking countries it put Taiwan at a disadvantage as documents produced in Taiwan using tongyong could only be understood with some difficulty and confusion. There are still alot of companies and schools using older systems as well, such as wade-giles , yale, chinese postal map, MPS II , and others. Complicating things in Taiwan is the fact that city and county governments might be either KMT or DPP, so despite the national government declaring Hanyu the official system, it's up to local government to erect public signage, and individual companies can employ any system they choose, probably depending on what they have historically used or their political leanings. Also, updating romanised signage is not a high priority here, there are not large numbers of foreigners in Taiwan. Students wishing to study the Chinese language in Taiwan for the most part need to learn a phonetic system called bopomofo which takes about a week to learn (that is to say you will be given a week to learn it) and is far superior to any of the romanisation systems. It also can be placed right next to the chinese character so pronunciation of an unknown character can be immediately known without refering to a different text or dictionary. It is also a convenient input method for computers and text messages.
Wikipedia has an excellent article on Romaniation of Chinese in Taiwan HERE.


sansIcarus said...

Sounds like chaos! And probably good motivation for you to learn those Chinese characters...

Francie said...

This explains why when I went to visit Jiuofen, that it was called Jiu-Fang or Shoufeng.

Lucky I didn't get lost.

It aslo explains why I only got 40% in my final year Modern History exam in high school. We did Chinese modern history and the names of people and places changed depending on which book you were looking at. It was awful. Plus my teacher was dreary.