The Ministry of Education’s National Languages Committee on Wednesday issued very general guidelines for how Taiwan will go about implementing Hanyu Pinyin.
Unfortunately, they’re not very clear. But long years of experience have taught me that the most pessimistic interpretation (from the standpoint of Pinyin advocates) is probably the correct one. One guideline, for example, states:
Guónèi dìmíng sh? guójì t?ngyòng huò yu?dìngsúchéng zh?, wúx? g?ngg?i.
(Dometic place names that are internationally known or established by convention need not change.)
That’s going to be the excuse used to justify keeping all too many names in bastardized Wade-Giles or other largely useless systems. Thus, we’re probably stuck with not just old forms of names of big cities and counties (e.g., Kaohsiung and Taichung rather than Gaoxiong and Taizhong) but also old forms of lesser-known cities and counties (e.g., Taitung and Keelung rather than Taidong and Jilong). If this is the extent of things, it would copy the policy that the previous administration applied, which I think would be a terrible mistake.
Taiwan’s romanization situation: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that this will be used an excuse to keep even more old forms than the DPP’s Tongyong policy did, e.g., Panchiao and Hsintien rather than Banqiao and Xindian (or Tongyong’s Banciao and Sindian). In which case the expression might better be, “Taiwan’s romanization situation: one step forward, two steps back.”
- Jiàoyùbù yánxi? Zh?ngwén yìy?n sh?yòng yuánzé jì tu?dòng zh? xi?nggu?n pèitào cuòsh? qíngxing shu?míng (???????????????????????????), National Languages Committee, October 7, 2008
- Tu?dòng Zh?ngwén yìy?n xi?nggu?n pèitào cuòsh? f?ng?ng bi?o (???????????????)