Chinglish

Opposing The Proposal:

There are those who say, “We don’t need your Hanyu Pinyin! Studying English is hard enough and we have already gone through learning two different Pinyins in our lifetime.  It is tiring and confusing!  Not to mention, it doesn’t make a difference for the foreigners.”

A local high school student, who wishes to simply be referred to as Miss Hsieh, expresses her view on the change, in effect of this year.

Funny enough, there is a website claiming that Wade-Giles was never an official system for Taiwan and goes on into detail on the pronunciations, etc, such as the question if the government doesn’t know Chinese – as to why they keep giving foreigners the wrong information.

Since using Wade-Giles, it has reportedly been more useful among the locals and foreigners in understanding the languages, and generally did not hold as a problem.

A childrens book is already out, in such to learn the Hanyu Pinyin, Taiwans official use of Pinyin made effective this year.

A children's book is already out, in such to learn the Hanyu Pinyin, Taiwan's official use of Pinyin made effective this year.

There is a fear, a debate that is going around among the people, especially those who hold a passport: Do we have to change our names? Gratefully, the answer is no.  Pro-Independent Taiwanese hold pride in Taiwan’s unique Pinyin, separate from the PRC’s or the internationally recognized.

The most important question is yet to be asked, however.  Are we going to replace the traditional characters?  Taiwan is the last known country in the world, recognized for using traditional characters fully as their literary language.  “Internationalizing” (through adapting the Hanyu Pinyin system) comes at a huge price: the surrender of culture and tradition.  The warming of relations in the Cross Strait ties, and the increase among youths in the usage of Japanese and simplified characters, are proof of this.

(Photo, courtesy of BBC News)  Taipei hopes the new passport will help reduce confusion.

(Photo, courtesy of BBC News) Taipei hopes the new passport will help reduce confusion.

“More than 85 percent of the 2.6 million visitors who come to Taiwan visit Taipei,” President Ma says.  “The need for globalization in the capital is more urgent than anywhere else. Taipei City must adopt Hanyu Pinyin.”

Taiwan’s Cabinet, on Decembner 18, 2008 passed the amendment to the Guidelines on Using Chinese Phonetic Spelling (中文譯音使用原則), following a three-year plan to replace Tongyong with Hanyu nationwide.

The following exert is of an interview from January 2009, between the Pinying League President, Yu Bor-Chuan and TAIPEI TIMES reporter Shih Hsiu-Chuan on the contemplation in switching to an new Pinyin.  The debate can even be traced back to 2000, in a newspaper article, here.

>>Recommended read, “Maybe it’s not really wrong — just the English pronunciation.”  <<<

The Interview:

Taipei Times: Do you think the government sought the opinions of civic groups before making a decision?

Yu Bor-Chuan (余 伯泉): No. The decision was made by Minister Without Portfolio Ovid Tseng [曾志朗] at a meeting on Sept. 16. The decision was not made in a context [involving linguistics experts] nor did language experts take part in the policy-making.

The wording on the document that the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission claimed Premier Liu Chao-Shiuan [劉兆玄] had signed off on concerning the Hanyu Pinyin proposal was also problematic. The wording meant only that the proposal had been used as a reference, but it stopped short of saying that it had been approved.

What I took this to indicate was that government officials were exerting their powers arbitrarily while dodging responsibility for the actions they have taken and will take and are trying to avoid any questions people might ask about the policy.

(Photo, courtesy of Taiwan Journal, by Hsueh Chi-Kuang)  Minister Without Portfolio, Ovid Tseng (or Tzeng), is upbeat on obtaining world heritage status for traditional Chinese characters.

(Photo, courtesy of Taiwan Journal, by Hsueh Chi-Kuang) Minister Without Portfolio, Ovid Tseng (or Tzeng), is upbeat on obtaining world heritage status for traditional Chinese characters.

TT: Did the Taiwan Pinyin League at any point contract the government about its policy?  If so, what was the response?

Yu: The Taiwan Pinyin League first questioned the Executive Yuan (site is bilingual) concerning the legitimacy of and administrative flaws in the policy-making process that saw the Ministry of Education [MOE] promulgate the Guidelines of Using Chinese Phonetic Spelling on Dec. 18 [which replaced Tongyong with Hanyu Pinyin as the national standard.

In its reply, the MOE discussed the rationale and benefits of the policy shift, but it offered bogus information to justify its argument that only Hanyu Pinyin was accepted by the international community.

We sent a document to the Executive Yuan asking for an explanation of this incorrect information and explaining our concern that adopting Hanyu Pinyin, the system used in China, would humiliate the nation and undermine its sovereignty. The MOE replied a second time with just a few words and still failed to answer our questions.

TT: What do you mean by ‘sacrificing the nation’s sovereignty‘ and what was the false information cited by the ministry?

Yu: In the Guidelines of Using Chinese Phonetic Spelling, released on Dec. 18, a chart to convert Chinese characters and Zhuyin Fuhao [commonly called bopomofo] into Hanyu Pinyin and a Hanyu-Tongyong comparison chart were attached without citing a source.

That the MOE did not cite the source of the Hanyu Pinyin charts constituted an act of plagiarism as the phonetic system was approved by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China [PRC] and ratified by its National People’s Congress in 1958.

Nor did the MOE mention that Hanyu Pinyin has been adopted by the International Organization for Standardization [ISO] as the standard Romanization system for modern Chinese. The second version of the 1991 ISO 7098 [decision] said ISO 7098 referred to “Modern Chinese or Putonghua [普通話], the official language of the PRC.”

The MOE left out the ISO reference on purpose with the intent of withhold this information from the public because it could lead to the misunderstanding that Taiwan is part of China.

As for the false information I mentioned, the MOE said Taiwan’s street and place names are spelled using Hanyu Pinyin on maps and atlases published by most countries and international organizations. This is not true, since the international community generally goes by the guideline of naming a person or a place after its original name.

There are hardly any countries or international organizations that use Hanyu Pinyin to spell places in Taiwan except maps published by China.

We demanded that the MOE show us data to prove that the Hanyu Pinyin “Taizhong” is used more often than the Tongyong “Taichung” and that Gaoxiong” is used more than “Kaohsiung by the international community, but the MOE just ignored the question.

The MOE said all libraries in the world use Hanyu Pinyin to catalog their collections in Chinese. Although it is true that most libraries classify collections of their Chinese materials with Hanyu Pinyin, the fact is other phonetic systems are also accepted in their catalogues.

(Photo, courtesy of TAIPEI TIMES)  A Japanese contestant at a Chinese speaking competition held by the Taipei City Government last year holds up two signs with different Romanization for the same road name to demonstrate the difficulties people who are not familiar with Chinese have when trying to navigate the citys streets.

(Photo, courtesy of TAIPEI TIMES) A Japanese contestant at a Chinese speaking competition held by the Taipei City Government last year holds up two signs with different Romanization for the same road name to demonstrate the difficulties people who are not familiar with Chinese have when trying to navigate the city's streets.

TT: How has Tongyong Pinyin been implemented in Taiwan in the past six years?  The MOE said that Romanization is still a mess, with 65 percent in Tongyong and 35 percent in Hanyu Pinyin and other systems.

Yu: That was a complete fabrication. It was outrageous that officials falsified the results of a survey on the status of implementation of Tongyong Pinyin over the past years. The MOE conducted a survey that polled local governments and central government agencies on their experience with adopting Tongyong Pinyin between 2002 and 2008.

In the original survey documents — obtained by Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] Legislator Wong Chin-Chu [翁金珠] — in a list of items that were required to be transliterated with Tongyong Pinyin, only 6 percent were marked as “unable to be carried out.”

Most of those were marked by Taipei City, where Hanyu Pinyin has been implemented as the standard since 2002 by then-Taipei mayor Ma Ying-Jeou [馬英九] in defiance of the DPP government’s policy.

When asked about the “level of difficulty” of switching to Tongyong Pinyin, 19 percent of the items were regarded as “difficult,” tagged with the note that “the difficulty can be resolved.”

The survey also found that only 6 percent of the interviewed units suggested that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration replace Tongyong Pinyin with Hanyu Pinyin.

Overall, it can be said that there has been significant improvement over the past six years in standardizing the Romanization of road signs and street names in Tongyong Pinyin nationwide.

(Photo, courtesy of CNA)  Supporters of the “Taiwan Mandarin Spelling League” and other groups demonstrate outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei yesterday to protest against the ministry’s policy of promoting the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system.

(Photo, courtesy of CNA) Supporters of the “Taiwan Mandarin Spelling League” and other groups demonstrate outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei yesterday to protest against the ministry’s policy of promoting the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system.

TT: The main reason given by the government to adopt Hanyu Pinyin was to bring Taiwan in line with international standards.

Yu: If that was the real reason behind the policy shift, the government should have replaced the traditional characters used exclusively in Taiwan with simplified characters, because more than 95 percent of the [Chinese-speaking] population worldwide uses simplified characters.

During the era of its one-party rule, the KMT only used Zhuyin Fuhao to teach children Mandarin pronunciation in schools.

Retaining Zhuyin Fuhao was a relic of the old KMT era under the principle that “gentlemen don’t stand with thieves.” Bopomofo was replaced with pinyin in China in 1949, so the KMT’s mindset has been that it must defend Zhuyin Fuhao and reject Hanyu Pinyin.

In 1996, former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-Tseh [李遠哲] and other distinguished academics called on the government to replace Zhuyin Fuhao with pinyin in school but to no avail. At that time, when we proposed Tongyong Pinyin in 1998, Ma still insisted that his Taipei City government retain the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II system [the transliteration of bopomofo].

So the KMT has been a staunch advocate of Zhuyin Fuhao. It just didn’t make sense for the KMT, a defender of bopomofo, to favor Hanyu Pinyin for the purpose of internationalization.

The issue of internationalization can be seen from two perspectives.

As far as Mandarin-teaching is concerned, given the reality of diplomacy and the widespread prevalence of Hanyu Pinyin globally, there is no doubt that market forces will lead to the adoption of Hanyu Pinyin in this field.

However, in the field of proper names, Taiwan has a right to choose a Romanization system suited to it and the international community will respect our choice.

Adopting Tongyong Pinyin will not pose difficulties for foreigners.

For foreigners who do not understand Mandarin, whether a road sign is spelled in Hanyu Pinyin or Tongyong Pinyin makes no difference, not to mention that Tongyong is more friendly to English speakers than Hanyu in terms of pronunciation.

The primary differences between the two systems are that Tongyong uses “s,” “c” and “jh,” which corresponds more to English spelling, instead of “x,” “q” and “zh” as used in Hanyu Pinyin, which English speakers without Mandarin skills do not usually know how to pronounce. There wouldn’t be a problem as long as street signs an maps were spelled consistently everywhere.

TT: What will be the consequences if the government insists on pushing Hanyu Pinyin? Are you concerned that Hanyu Pinyin will bring Taiwan closer to China?

Yu: One could say that was one of our concerns, but it is not correct to focus on the issue of national identity first. We have to talk some sense about the nature of the matter and put the identity issue second.

The Hanyu Pinyin system is not entirely suitable for Taiwan given the fact that not every Chinese character is pronounced in Taiwan as it is in China.

Immediately after Hanyu Pinyin was adopted by the government in September, the MOE promulgated guidelines for using Hanyu Pinyin to Romanize Hakka, replacing the application of Tongyong Pinyin for teaching Hakka.

As Tongyong has been used for the Romanization of Hakka, even some KMT lawmakers were against the new guidelines. They said that it would make learning Hakka more difficult because Hanyu Pinyin did not accommodate sounds in the language.

The most serious problem is how our names are to be Romanized.

Although the Hanyu Pinyin guidelines allow individuals to decide the spelling of their name, it suggested using the format of surname first, followed by given name without a hyphen between the syllables … If my name were that way, my initials would be [Y.] B. instead of [Y.] B.C. in Tongyong Pinyin … How can the government ignore the fact that Taiwanese people have used a hyphen in their given name … for about 20 to 30 years?

No one has the right to arbitrarily decide what other people’s names should be. By the same token, Taiwan has every right to decide its proper names.

We should not give up autonomy over this as it is a representation of our sovereignty.

TT: What are your suggestions for the government?

Yu: Japan, where two different Romanization systems have been used since 1954, could serve as an example.

In 1954, Japan’s Cabinet announced a program including the Hepburn and the nippon-shiki [“Japan-style”] systems, under which the Hepburn Romanization system devised by an American is employed in overseas Japanese-language teaching materials, while the nippon-shiki system is used to transliterate local names and for domestic education.

Japan’s experience proves that the adoption of two Romanization systems does not hurt a country’s competitiveness. In addition, [there is] compatibility between the Tongyong and Hanyu Pinyin systems.

Fading Taiwan:

Premier Liu Chao-Shiuan (劉兆玄) refers the tradtional characters as “a living fossil.”

A  decorated march in Taiwan, in protest against the Chinese Communist Partys (CCP) anti-secession law (known to some as the Anschluss edict).

A decorated march in Taiwan, in protest against the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) anti-secession law (known to some as the "Anschluss edict").

What is the initial reaction?  Taiwan’s “national language,” being called: a fossil — even a living fossil.  Likewise, as we have seen with other Asian countries, ranging from earliest to latest: Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong…

The stage of events since President Ma’s inauguration is slowly decaying Taiwan and emerging what the Beijing capital is making us into: Chinese Taipei.

How do you feel, reading that the interviewed, Yu Bor-Chuan is placing the issue and question of whether we’re having to change our names first, and the issue of national identity, second.  WHO is this man, to decide for us – what do we, the Taiwanese people (in effect), have to say…??

In this change, this program of 2009 – 2012 (minimum), the President is spending millions of NT dollars in this effort.  Taiwan, to date has gone through three changes in the pinyin system. There are countless Taiwanese and Independence supporters, in fear of what this program may mold, specifically during the time of these 50 to 100 some odd years, when the Taiwanese identity has been in jeopardy.

At what cost, are we willing to make for internationalization?  Does it have to follow China’s model?

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~ by Lan on 2008 MonUTC2009-02-16T14:33:33+00:00. 15.

5 Responses to “Chinglish”

  1. Great Post

  2. Isn’t this really just splitting hairs? So what if you drop a hyphen from your name – everyone will still know that it’s you!

  3. Sorry, SL, I have to disagree. A person’s name is very personal, and some times, part of your heritage. My little girl’s name has a hyphen in it. Her mother and I thought long and hard before giving her that name. You can change your own name if you want, but nobody else should be able to change it.

  4. I believe, according to the latest reports – there is no need to change one’s personal name – unless if otherwise wish to do so.

    I’m lucky it doesn’t affect me, my name simply is: Lan.

    Thank you for all your comments, everyone, keep posting!

    Many Thanks!

  5. P.S. For information regarding on possible name changes, please go to the top of the page (of this article post), under the sub-section titled, “Opposing The Proposal,” there is a line that states, “Do we have to change our names? Gratefully, the answer is no.”

    Simply, click on the hyper-text-link, the words (the answer is no) in white.

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