Groups favoring the promotion of Taiwanese (also called Hokkien, Hoklo, Minnan, and all sorts of other names) are urging Taiwan’s Ministry of Education to come to a consensus on what phonetic system should be used to teach it, according to an article in the Taipei Times.
The article, however, is a bit confused in its facts, so I’m presenting it for what it’s worth and hoping commenters here can help set matters straight. Certainly, though, the variety of systems — and for some of these I use the word loosely — being used in textbooks is a hindrance to effective teaching of the language.
Some might be surprised to know that Tongyong Pinyin is not Taiwan’s official romanization system for Taiwanese, though its schemes were approved for Mandarin and Hakka. I tend to think of Tongyong for Mandarin as more of a nationalist marketing scheme than a romanization. I know there are more than a few people who hold the same view of Tongyong for Taiwanese.
As long as I’m on the subject, I’d like to remind people that, despite the misinformation that has been spread by some of its supporters, Tongyong is not one system that covers all the languages of Taiwan.
Native-language interest groups yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to speed up the creation of a unified phonetic system for the Hoklo language (commonly known as Taiwanese) to preserve Taiwanese culture.
Lee Shang-hsien (???), director of the Taiwan Pik Hap Cultural Association which promotes the Hoklo language, said that different versions of elementary school Hoklo textbooks used three different phonetic systems.
At the moment, Hoklo text books use either Tongyong pinyin, the Hanyu Romanization system, or the Taiwanese Language Phonetic Alphabet (TLPA).
Lee said that the three systems did not reflect regional Hoklo accents, and added that the Hoklo language could not be preserved and passed on to the next generation without a unified phonetic system.
Language teacher Su Huang-hung (???) said that Hoklo originally had eight tones, but due to the similarity of the second and sixth tones, most phonetic systems regarded Hoklo as a seven-tone language.
Using the Tongyong pinyin system reduces Hoklo to only five tones, Su said.
In addition, Hoklo pronunciation changes according to syntactic context, she added.
However, Tongyong pinyin marks these cases as variant pronunciations, creating a situation in which many students do not know the original pronunciation of the words they study, Su said.
Hanyu pinyin and the TLPA are almost entirely identical, since the TLPA system was derived from Hanyu pinyin by the Ministry of Education many years ago, said Lu Ching-ching (???), a member of the ministry’s Native Language Promotion Committee.
Lu said there were similarities among the three systems, and that all three have advantages and disadvantages.
The committee’s main problem was to reach a consensus and decide on one system or to incorporate the three systems into one, she said.
Discussions are still taking place at the ministry on unifying the phonetic system, Lu added.
Huang Yu-chi (???), director of the Taiwan Association for Students Abroad, said that many overseas Taiwanese return during summer and winter vacations and hope to learn their mother tongue, but the lack of a unified phonetic system makes it difficult for them to do so.
Other representatives said that not only students, but also foreigners and foreign spouses need to learn Hoklo and are in need of a unified system.
source: Culture groups urge ministry to expedite Hoklo writing rules, Taipei Times, February 23, 2006