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Taipei City ready to defy MOI over romanization
By Hermia Lin
Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
Page 1
2007-11-12 01:20 AM
Taipei City and central government could be heading toward a showdown over romanization systems as Mayor Hau Lung-bin said he would defy the Ministry of the Interior's push to adopt Taiwan's homegrown system.

With English place and street names widely inconsistent around Taiwan, the Interior Ministry announced at the end of October that it would standardize the English romanizations of the country's place names around its preferred "Tongyong Pinyin" system by the end of this year.

The government has made futile attempts in recent years to enforce the adoption of Tongyong Pinyin around the country, with many locales preferring China's "Hanyu Pinyin," the older Wade-Giles system, or simply undecipherable gibberish.

Tongyong Pinyin is virtually unknown outside of Taiwan, while Hanyu Pinyin has become the widely used standard in the teaching of Mandarin around the world, and is the standard used in Taipei City.

Questioned by reporters at the wedding of Taiwan's top "Go" player, Hau stressed that the Taipei City Government would continue to use Hanyu Pinyin despite the Interior Ministry's push as it's the most commonly used pinyin system in the international community.

"Taipei City has decided to continue using Hanyu Pinyin to connect with other countries in the world," Hau said.

He suggested that the Interior Ministry consult with linguistic scholars and learn to respect their expertise when standardizing the romanization of Taiwan's place and street names.

Taipei City is the only city in Taiwan that has adopted Hanyu Pinyin. KMT presidential candidate and former Mayor Ma Ying-jeou advocated the system's use despite fierce opposition from the Ministry of Education.

Multiple transliterations of place names in Taiwan have often caused confusion among foreign visitors. One of Taipei's main shopping streets is written now as "Zhongxiao Road" (Hanyu) but is also seen as "Chunghsiao Road" (Wade-Giles), and Jhongsiao Road" (Tongyong).

A drive to Taiwan's northwestern coast will take you to a town alternatively written as "Danshui," "Danshuei," "Tamsui," "Tamshuei," or "Tamshui."

The Interior Ministry argued last month that Tongyong Pinyin was the best romanization standard for Taiwan.

According to the MOI's plan, place names will begin with a capital followed by small letters. For example, one of the cities in suburban Taipei will be written "Banciao" on road signs, instead of "Ban Ciao" or "Ban-ciao."

Exceptions will be made if the second Chinese character in the name begins with the vowel sounds "a," "o," and "e," such as "Ren-ai Township" or "Da-an District."

According to the Ministry of the Interior's Web site, exceptions to the Tongyong Pinyin system will still be allowed for some well known tourist attractions, including "Jade Mountain," and the "Central Mountains."

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