Taipei County signage and romanization systems

Speaking yesterday on topics related to signage and romanization, Taipei County Magistrate Zhou Xi-wei said that Taipei County should have its systems match those of Taipei City:

Táiběi Xiànzhǎng Zhōu Xīwěi xīwàng yǐ shēnghuóquān wéi kǎoliáng, yào hé Táiběi Shì zhěnghé yīzhì.

One of the implications of this is that for Taipei County, Taiwan’s most populous area, Tongyong Pinyin is out and Hanyu Pinyin is in.

This is no surprise, given that Zhou

  • is a member of the Kuomintang, whose chairman, Ma Ying-jeou, has backed Hanyu Pinyin and implemented it in Taipei in his role as mayor of the capital
  • campaigned for integration (whatever that’s supposed to mean) of Taipei County with Taipei City.

As an advocate of Hanyu Pinyin and resident of Taipei County, I’m pleased by the change. But as someone who has lived in Taiwan for ten years, I know all too well how likely it is that the new signage will be botched. Taiwan has a poor record of correct implementation of romanization — in any system. Moreover, there are aspects of Taipei City’s signage that Taipei County should certainly not copy, namely InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion (unnecessary and counterproductive) and “nicknumbering” (putting a number on a street does nothing to aid communication if nobody knows what the number refers to). So if this doesn’t end up another SNAFU, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. (Does anyone have any good contacts within the Taipei County government? I’d like to be able to talk with some people in charge well before this gets beyond the planning stage.)

Until late last year Taipei County was under a DPP administration, so its romanization policy, such as it was, was to use Tongyong Pinyin. But implementation has been spotty and often sloppy. Most street signs in Taipei County remain in MPS2. Banqiao has seen more signs in Tongyong Pinyin; but most of those have the romanization in such relatively tiny letters that it’s nearly useless for drivers.

Turning back for a moment to the news reports that prompted this post, an additional item of interest is the headline of one of the stories: Pīnyīn fāngshì「qiao」bùdìng Yīngwén dìmíng busasa (拼音方式「喬」不定 英文地名霧煞煞). Here, both qiao and busasa are Taiwanese, not Mandarin. (A-giâu or somebody else, help me out on the spelling here!)

Here’s one of the stories:

Táiběi jiéyùn Bǎnqiáo-Tǔchéng xiàn jiāng yú wǔ yuèfèn tōngchē zhì Tǔchéng yǒng nìng zhàn, yīnyīng zhuǎnchéng lǚkè xūyào, Tái-Tiě Bǎnqiáo chēzhàn jiāng shèzhì línshíxìng zhǐshì pái. Bùguò, Yīngyǔ yìyīn hùnluàn, xiànzhǎng Zhōu Xī-wěi biǎoshì, gāi cǎiyòng Tōngyòng Pīnyīn huòshì Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, jiāng huì yǐ shēnghuóquān de gàiniàn wèi qiántí, yǔ Táiběi Shì zhěnghé.

So the additional MRT stations are opening in May after all. As a Banqiao resident who has waited long for that day, I’m happy to hear it. But since the stations are opening so soon, I’d be willing to bet that they’ll reproduce the mistakes already in the system instead of correcting them.

Zhōu Xī-wěi biǎoshì, wèilái yě jiāng tuīdòng yī piào fúwù dàodǐ wèi mùbiāo, rú mínzhòng chíyǒu yōu yóu kǎ huò qítā piàozhèng, jíkě zhuǎnchéng jiéyùn, gāo tiě huò Tái-Tiě, dāchéng dàzhòng yùnshū gōngjù jiāng gèng biànlì.

Zhōu Xī-wěi jīntiān xiàwǔ xúnshì Bǎnqiáo huǒchēzhàn rénxíng tōngdào, duìyú Tái-Tiě, gāo tiě jí jiéyùn sān tiě gòng gòu, zhàn pái, lù míng Yīngwén biāoshì què wǔhuābāmén, yǒude yòng Táiwān Tōngyòng Pīnyīn, yǒude yǐ Zhōngguó dàlù Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, érqiě biāoshì shífēn bù míngxiǎn, dēngguāng bùgòu míngliàng, Zhōu Xī-wěi xīwàng gè dānwèi xiétiáo gǎishàn.

Zhōu Xī-wěi rènwéi, Bǎnqiáo chēzhàn jiānglái shì quánguó zuìdà de jiāotōng zhuǎnyùnzhàn, měirì fúwù wúshù mínzhòng, biāoshì yīng yǐ jiǎndān fāngshì, qīngchu gàosu shǐyòng rénshēn yú héchù, gāi wǎng héchù qù.

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9 thoughts on “Taipei County signage and romanization systems

  1. Panchiao => Banciao => Banqiao??? Let’s hope they get it right this time. However, there has always been one constant: Tucheng!!!

    Do you know what will happen on the signs at the new MRT stations on the Tucheng line when it opens?

  2. The station names are all in Hanyu Pinyin. No change. After all “Xinpu” has been in Banqiao for several years, and it has never been labeled “Sinpu”. A while back some politician got himself in the news by defacing an MRT station to protest the use of Hanyu; I can’t remember which station, though. But nothing more came of it.

    Generally, though, the street maps posted within stations give both Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin for places within Taipei County. Maybe now they can get rid of that Tongyong clutter.

  3. They should invent proper english names based on Taiwanese names, as Taiwan wants english as second official language its not so far fetched. I know in that case nobody will know where to drive anymore but it works in Bruxelles, Belgium where stuff is french and dutch on road signs. Pinyin seems to be too inventive.

    You live at … Plank Bridge :)

    PS. I know what I write above is nonsense as in Taiwan the english names would be even more fucked up :)

  4. Bilingual signs are not the point. Pinyin was not invented for the benefit of English speakers, but as a pronounication guide for Chinese speakers. Translation into English is the last thing anybody needs. When you go to a Japanese restaurant, do you order ‘raw tuna on rice on a toasted seaweed roll’ or do you just order maguro maki sushi? When you go to a Korean restaurant, do you order ‘pickled Chinese cabbage in chili’ or just kimchi? Why is it that Chinese restaurant menus are always filled with stuff like ‘Chicken in a strange brown sauce’, ‘dumplings’,and ‘steamed buns’ when guaiweiji, jiaozi, and mantou would do just fine? Bastardized romanizations don’t help either. It may be too late to change ‘KungPao chicken’ to ‘Gongbao jiding’

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