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 shǔ guójì tōngyòng huò yuēdìngsúchéng zhě, wúxū gēnggǎi.
(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 yánxiū Zhōngwén yìyīn shǐyòng yuánzé jì tuīdòng zhī xiāngguān pèitào cuòshī qíngxing shuōmíng (教育部研修中文譯音使用原則暨推動之相關配套措施情形說明), National Languages Committee, October 7, 2008
- Tuīdòng Zhōngwén yìyīn xiāngguān pèitào cuòshī fēngōng biǎo (推動中文譯音相關配套措施分工表)