Taiwan to switch to Hanyu pinyin?

I’ll believe it when I see it but it is certainly about time. Source article here; the article they got it from, in Chinese, is here.

This is one of those super-sensitive topics in Taiwan, and whenever I asked my friends over there if they wanted Taiwan to standardize using dalu pinyin they nearly shouted at me, “No!” Thus one shop window is selling xiabu xiabu, another shabu shabu, another syabu syabu, etc., all on the same road.

If it’s true, it could be an important turning point as Taiwan faces reality and returns to the motherland.

Update: Just to be safe, knowing how hysterical some readers get: that last line is semi-tongue-in-cheek. Semi. I do think Taiwan has already faced the reality that it is tied to China in many ways, and that most of its people favor some form of reconciliation, if only to help shore up their woeful economy. Being something of a pragmatist, I would have to say that a joining of the two is a matter of when and not if, even if such a joining is not justified by history (and what a bitter debate that topic can ignite).

English description of the new legislation, from a message board and unverified at the moment:

Hanyu Pinyin will be adopted as the main transliteration in Taiwan, instead of the Tongyong Pinyin, which had been used island-wide for the last six years. The Cabinet approved a proposal by the Ministry of Education (MOE) Tuesday. Hanyu Pinyin is to help Taiwan’s internationalization and international competitiveness, said the MOE.

Now, onto simplifying the characters….

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 62 Comments

taiwan faces reality and returns to the motherland? what?

September 17, 2008 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

Read my Update. I knew that would raise some eyebrows.

September 17, 2008 @ 3:45 pm | Comment

The truth is that Taiwanese people will still not use Hanyu pinyin; instead what is happening is that the central government will only compensate local governments for road signs, translated tourist-oriented material etc. if they are using Hanyu Pinyin. Taiwanese people will continue to use Zhuyin Fuhao.

The government has no ability to force the use on the whole country, though this carrot measure will accomplish the same goal. It may take a decade for all the signs to be updated to Hanyu Pinyin. And again, Taiwanese people will still not understand any romanization system at all.

September 17, 2008 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

Also, “returning to the motherland” and simplified characters are out of the question.

September 17, 2008 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

To be fair, shabu shabu and syabu syabu are both forms of Japanese romanization, so you can’t really blame the Taiwanese for that… :P

September 17, 2008 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

Well if they implement it it across the board, including standardising it on street signs, at least it will help non 繁体字-reading visitors find their way around. Trying to do that with maps and streetsigns that use different systems is such a headache.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:02 pm | Comment

Street signs were the main headache, as they can actually change from Wade-Giles to Hanyu pinyin literally from block to block. Fushingnanlu at this corner, Fuxingnanlu the next. To the tourist with a map in hand this can be quite confusing, and in any event, shouldn’t spelling be consistent? And Jhong for Zhong – how perverse.

Update: Rhys, you beat me to it on the maps.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

A gu:

The truth is that Taiwanese people will still not use Hanyu pinyin…Taiwanese people will continue to use Zhuyin Fuhao.

A serious question: what do Chinese-speaking people in Taiwan use pinyin for, anyway? Maybe for Chinese character readers where you have to type in the pinyin? One source of bewilderment to me was when I would text Taiwanese friends using Hanyu pinyin and none of them could read it. I used it in Hong Kong all the time without a problem, and every day in China, um, Mainland China, of course. But it seemed the Taiwanese don’t use it. Again, time to standardize, for everyone’s benefit.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:13 pm | Comment

No, nobody in Taiwan uses any romanization at all, ever. If they do they just make up their own version. Taiwanese stick with Zhuyin Fuhao for all functions — keyboard input, dictionary lookup, shorthand for long characters, trying to phonetically represent Taiwanese, everything. There is no interest whatsoever in abandoning it for any romanization.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

I remember my Taiwanese friends thought of pinyin as bewildering and diluting proper Chinese. They thought that way about simplified characters, too. Oh the irony.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

@a-gu

“No, nobody in Taiwan uses any romanization at all, ever. If they do they just make up their own version.”

which is a major problem when they go abroad and people ask them to spell their names. obviously the taiwanese should do what they like in their own country, but for clarity it needs to be consistent and they have to understand internationally they are not onto a winner if they are not using pinyin. more and more people are learning chinese and they are not doing it in order to deal with the taiwanese, they are doing it to deal with the mainlanders. i think the taiwanese need to get real.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:40 pm | Comment

Well, they’ve finally seen the light. Soon they’ll be shouting “Zhongguo jia you,” walking down the street in their pajamas and treating anything in a pedestrian crosswalk as a moving target.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:41 pm | Comment

couldn’t hurt to standardize it. even if it’s not hanyu pinyin. a gu says no one uses it. i find that pretty much impossible to believe. i’m sure the locals don’t use it, but tourists are sure to. if you want a future of tourism, the two options would seem to be a) standardize or b) translate everything into english french arabic russian and simplified chinese all parallel to the current characters. this may help unemployment, but not headaches.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

@richard

“Well, they’ve finally seen the light. Soon they’ll be shouting “Zhongguo jia you,” walking down the street in their pajamas and treating anything in a pedestrian crosswalk as a moving target.”

as opposed to driving around with two/three kids on a scooter, overtaking parked buses on the inside (my friend no longer walks a limp though, so should thank god for small mercies) and spitting betel nut juice all over the pavement. this isn’t aimed at you, but i just want to say i love the way the taiwanese sneer at the mainlanders, because looking down on people who don’t come from your neck of the woods is so chinese. not that the taiwanese are chinese in anyway of course. oh no. they are totally, totally different.

September 17, 2008 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

Whatever the dreams of some people hoping for a big, happy unified world where everyone uses the same romanization, again — it’s just not going to happen. Taiwanese love Zhuyin and they’re stickin’ to it. The only people that use Pinyin here are foreigners and teachers with foreign students.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:03 pm | Comment

Si, you ought to hear how the Hongkongers talked about “Mainlanders” when I lived there in 2001. Yikes, is all I can say. I was shocked to hear people in Hong Kong talk about the sudden influx of Mainland tourists as if the island were being invaded by animals. Well, they – HK and Taiwan – lived in relative luxury and been on top of the world for several decades, and it must cause a loss of equilibrium to see the tables turning. Still, I didn’t find the Taiwanese quite so vocal about it as the HKers; to me, the Taiwanese people are about the most wonderful on the planet., but I guess it all depends on who you hang out with.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:07 pm | Comment

When I first started teaching in Taiwan in 2004, I was wondering why these little 5-year-olds were telling each other “You have Hong Kong feet.” Apparently this insult came about after HK was turned over to China again. Political consciousness starts at an early age.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

@rhys

“When I first started teaching in Taiwan in 2004, I was wondering why these little 5-year-olds were telling each other “You have Hong Kong feet.” Apparently this insult came about after HK was turned over to China again. Political consciousness starts at an early age.” really? doesn’t hong kong feet just mean athlete’s foot in chinese?

@richard

“Si, you ought to hear how the Hongkongers talked about “Mainlanders” when I lived there in 2001.”

yeah, when friends of mine who were touring china got to hong kong, the hk tour guide jumped onto the bus and shouted “welcome to civilisation!”. like i say, i think it is a very chinese thing.

“to me, the Taiwanese people are about the most wonderful on the planet., but I guess it all depends on who you hang out with.”

i am glad that you had a good time in taiwan. taiwanese can be very hospitable and kind, but also snobby and horrendously racist. i found/find them to be a very mixed bag.

@a-gu

don’t get me wrong, i support democracy and think any moves towards the mainland must have the backing of the people. however i think there are some things that the taiwanese need to accommodate themselves to.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:26 pm | Comment

Actually I think the “Hong Kong feet” thing is older than that [I've seen it on a very old add]. And I think it just happens to be the name for a kind of athlete’s foot or something.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:28 pm | Comment

Si. Really, I didn’t know that. That’s what I was told by a colleague. hahaha.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Comment

@ Si

I understand this accommodation idea, but frankly I just think romanization is such a non-issue blown out of proportion. Let’s take street signs, the one place spelling really matters, for example; I understand that in Singapore there are street names based on Chinese, Malay, English… the important thing is the same street has the same spelling, not that a particular spelling system is used.

And because of that, this particular change is likely to do more harm than good; over 6 years, already 2/3 of street signs outside of Taipei were fully altered to Tongyong Pinyin from the previous Wades Giles system; now it’ll be another 10 years before everything’s in Hanyu Pinyin. And even then it won’t make a lick of difference to the people living in Taiwan or virtually any businessmen — just the students of Chinese and tourists (most of whom don’t speak Chinese anyway and just need a consistent spelling to find things).

So you see it’s not that I prefer any romanization or the other, just that I think it’s completely unimportant what romanization is used, as long as its consistent.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

Being something of a pragmatist, I would have to say that a joining of the two is a matter of when and not if

I supppose it depends what you mean by that. Are we talking about a face-saving deal for Beijing that merely solidifies Taiwan’s independence under the vague notion of a “Chinese union”, or gives Beijing real power over the island? The former is possible if China “gets real” as Si puts it – the latter will probably only happen if China invades.

Si, Taiwanese and HKongers sneer at the Chinese – Chinese sneer at them for being “traitors” (because they embrace democracy), “declining”, etc. City Chinese sneer at countryside Chinese for being “backward” and “uncivilised”. Countryside Chinese sneer at city Chinese for being “decadent”, “corrupt” and “selfish”.

You’re making it sound as the only people in the region that have a problem with anyone are the Taiwanese.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

Raj, as I said in the previous sentence, “most of its people favor some form of reconciliation, if only to help shore up their woeful economy.” And we are trending slowly in that direction. Maybe it will end up being another one country, two systems. Maybe the CCP will cede full powers over to the Taiwan government, recognizing that a proven democracy can manage China better than themselves. I don’t know precisely. But they are going to continue moving closer and close because it is mutually advantageous not to, and it’s what their citizens want. And probably, after most of us are dead, they will actually agree to become one country, whatever the terms and details may be. But no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis. Nevertheless, I’m right.

About what you’re saying to Si: I have never, ever heard people here sneer about the HKers or Taiwanese. I am sure some do, I guess. But in HK it was something I heard literally every day. I certainly heard it in Taiwan, though not nearly as often as in HK. I rarely heard Singaporeans sneer about the Chinese, though again, I’m sure it’s happened. But, to re-emphasize: I never, ever even once heard Chinese people here sneer about the HKers or Taiwanese people. Not to say it never happens, but it’s clear there is no comparison to be made.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:47 pm | Comment

@a-gu

i getcha. and i agree

@raj

“You’re making it sound as the only people in the region that have a problem with anyone are the Taiwanese.”

i am sorry that you think that. my point was that the taiwanese enjoy sneering at mainlanders and that doing this was a strongly chinese trait, rendering their “we are NOT chinese” thing somewhat comical. i certainly don’t think that they are the only ones in the region with a problem with other people.

September 17, 2008 @ 5:54 pm | Comment

And we are trending slowly in that direction.

Richard, I’d like to think so. But I’m not sure whether Beijing is really ready to be pragmatic yet. It may well have got overly-excited about Ma, who is turning out to be a less-than inspirational leader and on current form would be lucky to get a second term.

Reconciliation on a long-term basis will only be possible if China shows goodwill towards a future DPP administration (it’s not showing that much at the moment).

Maybe it will end up being another one country, two systems. Maybe the CCP will cede full powers over to the Taiwan government, recognizing that a proven democracy can manage China better than themselves.

I would suggest the former is unlikely to happen, as hardly anyone in Taiwan thinks the HK method of governance suitable.

Not to say it never happens, but it’s clear there is no comparison to be made.

I wouldn’t be surprised if HKongers were more critical from your experience.

my point was that the taiwanese enjoy sneering at mainlanders and that doing this was a strongly chinese trait, rendering their “we are NOT chinese” thing somewhat comical

Si, Chinese people do not have a monopoly on sneering.

September 17, 2008 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

Gee, you sure can liven up a fun thread, Raj.

September 17, 2008 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Sorry to think you would enjoy a thoughtful discussion on a serious topic, richard.

September 17, 2008 @ 7:56 pm | Comment

As long as the Taiwanese people have a say in the matter, then who cares either way? For all its foibles, thank god for Taiwanese democracy, if the people want to vote for representatives that will make such changes then more power to them. Obviously part of the MA election was to build stronger ties to the Mainland and this is one of the resultant policy changes. Reconciliation for the people and by the people of Taiwan is definitely the best case-scenario.

September 17, 2008 @ 8:24 pm | Comment

Agreed, Andy. It will be their choice, and most of them seem to want some form of reconciliation. It’s not the longing for the “return to the motherland” that the Chinese in China feel – it’s way more practical than that.

September 17, 2008 @ 8:49 pm | Comment

Andy, I agree that if Taiwanese are able to decide their own fate then that’s the best anyone can expect – which was why I at least attempted to welcome Ma’s presidential victory some months ago.

The problem occurs if after an election a politician then does things that go against what he promised and a successor could not undo. That’s one reason why people like Michael Turton are concerned – that enough will happen before the next election to rob Taiwanese of a meaningful say over their futures. I’m not as pessimistic, but who knows what will happen.

Certainly I hope that the next president does not have people like Richard Bush and Kenneth Lieberthal advising him on Asia/China & Taiwan. Their piece today in the WSJ seems to reiterate the nonsense about how the “source of all evil” in relations over Taiwan was former President Chen, even though China attempted to alter the status-quo all the time and yet was never nearly criticised as harshly as Chen was by the US. The next administration needs to offer support to the victim, not the bully.

September 17, 2008 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

Now can we get back to pinyin?

September 17, 2008 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

How good is pinyin. Imagine learning Chinese without it. Imagine learning to type Chinese without it. What a great invention. If pinyin were a woman, I’d try to pick it up and take it home. If it were a weed, I’d smoke it. And if it were a separatist province, I’d let it go on its own merry way.

September 17, 2008 @ 9:26 pm | Comment

Yeah, pinyin and romaji – horrors to learn Chinese or Japanese without them.

I’d like to think I could get by in Taiwan without pinyin translations, but I guess for someone who has no background at all with Chinese sounds, etc it can be very confusing.

September 17, 2008 @ 9:40 pm | Comment

“Yeah, pinyin and romaji – horrors to learn Chinese or Japanese without them.”

agreed.

for a non-native speaker, bopomofo is horrible to memorise and to type. i still have nightmares about its counter intuitive layout on a keyboard. as i recall q=bo, a=po, z=mo, w=fo and so on. i don’t understand the necessity of creating a hiragana/katakana type writing when you only use it to indicate pronunication. surely the latin alphabet would be the obvious thing to use?

September 17, 2008 @ 9:50 pm | Comment

Taiwanese will continue to massacre the romanization of their surnames and choose whatever first names or initials suit their fancy or whatever they think foreigners can easily understand; Chinn, Parng, and others will continue to be with us as will Rove, Freeman, and Kiki’s and Cherry’s galore, further complicated by insistent and popular use of 閩南語. Changing Taiwan place names from the Wade-Giles to Pinyin will take at least a generation if even then with little motivation to do so.

Traditional characters are thought to be, well, 1) traditional, a link to the cultured and storied past and so should be maintained, 2) aesthetically pleasing, 3) the mark of more highly educated people; I note that in mainland China traditional characters are often used for business names – even government organizations – and formal announcements.

A lot of us learned Mandarin and traditional characters without pinyin or software dictionaries, and I find traditional characters easier to read than simplified if only by early habit.

September 17, 2008 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

I first learned Mandarin in Beijing, obviously learning pinyin and simplified Chinese. Later I’ve learned zhuyin for Taiwan dictionaries and a traditional Chinese IME, and I seriously think zhuyin makes at least as much sense as pinyin. It’s somewhat slower for me to read because I have less experience, but I really don’t think it would have been harded to learn Chinese using zhuyin than it was with pinyin.

September 17, 2008 @ 10:46 pm | Comment

With Pinyin, Peking became Beijing, and if Taiwan ever unites with the big neighbor, Taipei is going to be renamed Taibei.

September 17, 2008 @ 10:57 pm | Comment

@philip

i think that zhuyin makes sense and is completely phonetic, but as a learner of chinese it creates another unnecessary layer. i would argue it is much easier and quicker to learn pinyin. you can also use pinyin on the windows traditional chinese ime if you want, but i only found that out after i left taiwan!

September 17, 2008 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

Standardization really does make everyone’s life easier.

September 17, 2008 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

Awright! Long have I looked forward to the introduction of Hanyu pinyin. Death to Tongyong! Down with Wade-Giles! But as A-gu says, it really won’t have much effect.

Michael

September 18, 2008 @ 1:02 am | Comment

“But they are going to continue moving closer and close because it is mutually advantageous not to, and it’s what their citizens want.”

Moving closer? Yes, both sides want that. Taiwan becoming part of China? That’s a much, MUCH more one-sided Chinese thing, especially given the obnoxious behavior of the Chinese over the issue. And why wouldn’t it be? What does China have to offer Taiwan aside from threats and bullying? Yes, Taiwan’s economy will be increasingly dependent on China, but that’s only reason for annexation if one of the two sides (wonder which one?) uses it as leverage to bully the other into acceptance.

As it stands now, Taiwan will not willingly become a part of China. It’ll take either an invasion or the country being sold out from within for that to happen.

And I hope to God they never adopt 簡體字, either! Setting aside how ugly simplified looks, since beauty is hardly a solid basis on which to judge a language meant for everyday use, I’ve found memorizing 繁體 is actually easier because it provides you with more for your mind to grab onto. A character’s complexity goes beyond simple number of strokes; if you have two radicals that clearly suggest the meaning and you remove them for the sake of fewer strokes, the character is more rather than less difficult.

There’s a personal aspect, too; when I read 繁體, I feel like I’m simultaneously delving into thousands of years of Chinese history and learning a skill useful in the here-and-now. I can read 紅樓夢 or a road map in Taipei with the same characters. By contrast, simplified is just sort of the hacked apart remnants of that old script; instead of feeling the rush of being enveloped in ancient history, I just get annoyed that they didn’t go all the way like Vietnam and figure out how to adapt Mandarin’s endless homonyms to an alphabet.

So, yeah. 繁體字萬歲﹗If you’re going to stick to characters, at least write them correctly. :)

September 18, 2008 @ 1:24 am | Comment

“Traditional characters are thought to be, well, 1) traditional, a link to the cultured and storied past and so should be maintained, 2) aesthetically pleasing, 3) the mark of more highly educated people; I note that in mainland China traditional characters are often used for business names – even government organizations – and formal announcements.

A lot of us learned Mandarin and traditional characters without pinyin or software dictionaries, and I find traditional characters easier to read than simplified if only by early habit.”

Glad to see I’m not alone. Maybe it’s irrational, but I cringe whenever I see someone get excited at the prospect of Taiwan simplifying it’s characters. Not only do I actually find traditional characters easier to read and learn (there’s a lot more to grab onto, memorization-wise; complexity isn’t just number of strokes!), but they provide a link to thousands of years of history the mainland has severed. Not only are simplified characters ugly, but they aren’t even that useful anymore; simplified and traditional are equally easy to produce on a keyboard.

Here’s to reversing Richard’s hope: the mainland abandons simplified and traditional comes back into use across the Chinese world, simultaneously making the learner’s life easier and allowing ethnic Chinese of all backgrounds to read their own pre-1950s literature without translation!

September 18, 2008 @ 1:40 am | Comment

Sorry to interrupt the flow of the conversation. Just a side-note on the Hong Kong feet thing.

Hongkong feet simply means athletic feet, it’s used that way long before the civil war. So there is n ambiguity what it means in Taiwan. In 2004 Taiwan election, A-bian and the DPP accused the KMT of accepting the one nation two system model in Hongkong. THe propaganda machine called the KMT “HongKong feet”.

That’s probably the lowest of the low an election can get. Until of the shooting.

September 18, 2008 @ 3:03 am | Comment

About the attitude of Hong Kong people toward the mainland and the mainlanders, this summer I witnessed a sea change. During the Olympics, every conversation in Hong Kong had something to do with the Olympics and the Chinese athletes. All TV stations used the slogan Cheer for China to promote their programs. Every body knew how many gold medals China had won on any given day. It’s a genuine awakening of a sense of nationhood.

September 18, 2008 @ 4:19 am | Comment

People, good point. I was there in May for the torch relay and there was a lot of patriotism there. A lot.

September 18, 2008 @ 7:15 am | Comment

That’s probably the lowest of the low an election can get.

No, Tree sitter, the lowest of the low is when you shut down elections and shoot the people who advocate them. Like certain parties in China and Taiwan have done.

September 18, 2008 @ 9:37 am | Comment

Looking down on fellow Chinese is a national sport. When it come to Hong Kong, there is a need to differentiate HK attitudes towards all mainlanders in general (Cantonese speaking included) from that of Cantonese attitudes in general (including HK)towards Northerners, which from the Cantonese point of view pretty much includes all other non-Cantonese Chinese.

HK attitudes towards the mainland in general terms is created by differing stages of socio-economic development and political culture between British colonial rule in HK and civil war and communist rule on the mainland. This HK-mainland divide is true regardless of the linguistic/cultural background of the mainlander in question.

In additional to the above, there is the additional factor of traditional Cantonese antipathy to political domination from the North. The Cantonese are famous for their food and their emigration to foreign lands, but not for their literary sophistication or political and military prowess. While the mandarins exercised their powers of government on the local populace, the Cantonese passively resisted by defending their regional culture through their distinctive cuisine and linguistic heritage. The comparative economic and cultural sophistication of HK in the past few decades has resulted in the replacement of a traditional cultural inferiority complex by a superior one. This position is tenuous, however, with the rapid economic development of the mainland and the reassertion of political domination by Beijing. Therefore, you have to throw in an additional layer of fear that surely is responsible for the degree of negativity and venom expressed by some.

September 18, 2008 @ 9:48 am | Comment

Beautifully said, Schticky. “Tenuous” is definitely the right word for it, and thus all the angst leading to even greater derision. But I haven’t lived in HK since 2002, and as Serve the People said, that derision may have worn off as the “two systems” are drawn ever closer. The nationalism I saw there in May blew me away. It wasn’t the Hong Kong I had known in 2001. Never saw so many people waving Chinese flags in my life.

September 18, 2008 @ 10:20 am | Comment

The mainland should face reality that Taiwan will NEVER be part of that communist state, never was and never will be.

A sinologist

September 18, 2008 @ 10:36 pm | Comment

Richard,

I haven’t been in HK or the mainland since 1988, but the same dynamic can be observed between the HK, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese communities in Canada. Of course the three “communities” are not homogeneous and tensions and differences exist within each of the three groups. However, it is still interesting to hear the Hong Kong immigrants who flooded Canada’s cities in the 80′s complaining about “the invasion” by the present wave of mainland Chinese immigrants.

Steve,
China is not a communist state. Some may argue fascist with some justification, but communist, no.

September 19, 2008 @ 2:21 am | Comment

Steve,

You still think China is “that communist state”. Yet you have the nerve to call yourself “A sinologist”?

September 19, 2008 @ 5:38 am | Comment

Wow, coming to the Romanization/simplified-vs.-traditional debate pretty late. Sorry for not chiming in earlier; I guess I just thought I’d read these comments a million times already.

Advocates of “traditional” characters: look, I agree that fanti are a lot prettier, and I prefer reading columnar printing too, but face it: Barring a radical policy change that will require a fifth of the world’s population to re-learn how to write some of their favorite characters, the future of Chinese will be in simplified characters. Kind of a bummer on aesthetic grounds, but the notion that character simplification ‘cuts people off from history and tradition’ is just horsepuckey. Most educated Chinese maintain a passive literacy in fanti (though most are unable to write the characters), and I don’t see any reason why that should change. And if we’re so concerned about preserving our connection to history, why not go back to writing seal script? It’s a hell of a lot cooler-looking than jianti or fanti.

It’s great news that Taiwan is going to standardize on Hanyu Pinyin instead of the freakish menagerie of half-witted folk-Romanizations they abused before. (And don’t get me started on the abortion that is Tongyong Pinyin. Tongyong, indeed!) Now let’s all wait while they update every road sign on the island, and explain to young Ms. Chern that Gwoyeu Romatzyh was a noble and ingenious attempt at a Romanization system with tonal spelling, but she’s Ms. Chen now and she’ll have to update her business cards, e-mail address, and Facebook profile. And convince people that Zhuyin was a dumb-ass, failed attempt at creating a phonetic script independent of existing norms. And teach the locals how to convert from Wade-Giles and MPS-2 to Pinyin, first pausing to teach them how to use W-G and MPS-2 correctly since nobody ever uses the damned things right in the first place except for elderly Sinologists.
Personally, I would be very happy if mainland Chinese people would learn to use Pinyin properly as well. The number of times I’ve seen ‘pinyin’ as ‘pin yin’ or ‘PinYin’ or ‘pingying’ or some other such idiocy…

This takes us to the real problem, which is that Pinyin is thought of as a convenience for foreigners, which it is not. It was developed as a candidate replacement for Chinese characters, and is perfectly capable of serving as such when used correctly for vernacular texts. (Whether or not it should be is another matter and one I’m not going to get into here.) Instead, it’s used as a crutch for first-graders and as an intermediary writing system for people trying to type in characters on computer keyboards and phone pads. But I feel a rant coming on. Go read Zhou Youguang or John DeFrancis on the subject.

September 22, 2008 @ 7:49 am | Comment

What are you doing up so early, Brendan?

September 22, 2008 @ 8:21 am | Comment

Up so late, more like. Couldn’t get to sleep. Writing about script reform helped calm me down.

September 22, 2008 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

For a Taiwanese, viewing the simplified han zi is like an educated American viewing the simplest street slang with poor grammar. Not attractive.

September 23, 2008 @ 2:35 am | Comment

I have the nerve to call myelf a “Sinologist” because I am one…and China definitely still employs communist tactics in political and legal matters … or does anyone argue that China has an independant judiciary system? You know on what charges Hu Jia has been put into prison: 煽動顛覆國家政權罪 … typical for communist states for putting away people forever (perhaps they by chance contract pneumonia and just die, who knows?) … The threat of China is a combination of good old communism with a modern touch in economics.

November 4, 2008 @ 2:12 am | Comment

To Steve:

That’s why schticky rice suggested there might be some justification in calling China “fascist” (witness the nationalism and, some might argue, suppression of minority cultures such as Tibet’s). But “communist”? No. Communism implies much, much more than totalitarianism.

January 4, 2009 @ 6:01 pm | Comment

[...] asked about the “level of difficulty” of switching to Tongyong Pinyin, 19 percent of the items were regarded as “difficult,” [...]

February 16, 2009 @ 10:30 pm | Pingback

think Richard ( plus all the Chinese people) are the ones who needs to face the reality that Taiwan is NOT part of China and never will be. Taiwanese are NOT Chinese, never was, and never will be. Two separate countries, so wake up to reality!

August 31, 2010 @ 8:42 am | Comment

Taiwanese, I believe in Taiwan independence, but I also believe it will not happen. I would like it to happen, but the deck is stacked mightily against it. That doesn’t mean it will be one with China anytime soon – it won’t, and it shouldn’t be. But they will draw ever closer, and ultimately Taiwan will be all but subsumed.

August 31, 2010 @ 9:29 am | Comment

But…but…Merp said that all Taiwanese WANT to be a part of China!

;-)

August 31, 2010 @ 10:56 am | Comment

LOL at all of those people mocking simplified Chinese. If it weren’t for simplification and standardization of new character forms, you’d all still be writing in your primitive oracle bone scripts. Would you prefer to slowly draw pictures (which is what the oracle bone script amounts to) to write Chinese?

Enough ranting is what I’m saying. Many Chinese are already forgetting how to write simplified characters, there is no way in hell the mainland is going to switch BACK to traditional.

May 10, 2011 @ 4:28 am | Comment

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