Demos Next Heavy, by Gerard Unger, is a free representative of the large Demos Next family. It handles Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks nicely.
I’m far behind on writing about Taiwan’s upcoming election. The logos for the two main candidates in the presidential race were revealed about a month ago.
First up is the presidential campaign logo for Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 / Cài Yīngwén): “LIGHT UP TAIWAN 點亮台灣” (Diǎn liàng Táiwān).
And here is the campaign logo for the Kuomintang’s presidential candidate, Hung Hsiu-chu (Hóng Xiùzhù / 洪秀柱), er, Eric Chu (朱立倫 / Zhū Lìlún): “ONE TAIWAN 台灣就是力量” (Táiwān jiùshì lìliang).
It’s hard not to be struck by the fact that both prominently feature English slogans even though Taiwan has a distinct shortage of English-speaking Westerners who are eligible to vote here. (And, anyway, most such immigrants can read the Chinese characters.) For that matter, in both logos the English slogan comes first. That’s how cool and modern English is seen to be in Taiwan, even though it’s not an official language here. Coincidentally, one of the candidates is even named “Ing-wen” (“English language” / Yīngwén / 英文).
Sure, it’s window dressing; but it’s still window dressing in English.
In 2012 both major candidates had English slogans. Ma Ying-jeou used “Taiwan bravo;” and Tsai Ing-wen used “Taiwan next,” though Ma didn’t make such prominent use of English then as Chu is doing this year. My impression is that the Democratic Progressive Party embraced English much earlier than the Kuomintang but the KMT has since caught up with the DPP in this.
And, as was the case in the previous election, I’d like to note that both candidates used “台灣” rather than “臺灣” for “Taiwan,” despite the Ma administration’s declaration that the latter is the proper form.
further reading: Platform on tai?, Pinyin News, December 30, 2011
Raymond Huo, who served as a member of New Zealand’s parliament from 2008 to 2014, was born in China and moved to New Zealand twenty-one years ago from Beijing. His biography at the New Zealand Chinese Language Week Charitable Trust, an organization at which he is a co-chairman, states that he “has published seven books including two Chinese-English dictionaries as joint editor/translator.”
So when you hear that he is unhappy about how Statistics New Zealand is handling Mandarin, Cantonese, etc., in its count of languages, you might be inclined to think he is an expert who is battling ignorance in the bureaucracy. But read on.
“Treating Mandarin, Yue or other Chinese dialects as independent languages is deeply flawed,” Mr Huo said.
“It is similar to making statistical inferences about the difference between Northern English, Oceania English and Indian English, or … between pub talk and the King’s English.
“As such, English may not be the most widely spoken language if each ‘dialect’ was treated as an independent language as in the case of Mandarin and Cantonese.”
This is simply wrong. English as spoken in India, English as spoken in Oceania, and English as spoken elsewhere are all one language. Mandarin and Cantonese are not.
As expected, here comes something about Chinese characters.
The Chinese written script is broadly the same, but a single character can be pronounced in over 1000 different ways across China, according to Mr Huo.
That, however, doesn’t make “Chinese” one language. And focusing on Chinese characters is often a sign that someone has lost track of the language itself — or languages themselves, in this case.
Huo said the ranking order of English, te reo Maori, Samoan, and Hindi as the top four most spoken languages in New Zealand by Statistics NZ was “incorrect, misleading and deeply flawed.” He wants them all counted together, which would move “Chinese” into third place.
Census general manager Denise McGregor, however, said it is important to have a system of classification that enables languages to be either grouped or looked at individually.
“It’s incredibly useful to know that in a school zone, or at a specific library, or on a particular bus route there will be people who speak specifically Mandarin or Chinese,” she said.
“Just knowing they speak ‘Chinese’ isn’t likely to be as useful in targeting services.”
In the last Census, 52,263 people spoke Northern Chinese which includes Mandarin, 44,625 spoke Yue that includes Cantonese and 42,750 spoke a “Sinitic” language.
Mrs McGregor said of the 171,204 people in New Zealand of Chinese ethnicity, 45,216 were born here.
“The majority of these people do not speak any language other than English,” she said.
“We think the rich picture of the different Chinese languages and dialects is a valuable thing to have.”
Amen to that last thought. And I welcome the use of the phrase Sinitic language.
The author of the news article on this spoke with several other people.
David Soh, editor for Auckland-based Chinese language daily Mandarin Pages, said the Census figures for Mandarin speakers were “too low” to be correct.
“The figure that just over a quarter of the Chinese population are Mandarin speakers sounds too low to be accurate or true,” Mr Soh said.
“The fact is Chinese who speak Chinese dialects are often also able to converse in Mandarin, but the Census figure doesn’t seem to reflect that.”
AUT’s head of the School of Language and Culture, Sharon Harvey, said linguists would consider Chinese dialects as independent languages.
“It suits the Chinese Government to say all these languages are ‘only’ dialects but most linguists would say many are languages in their own right.”
Cantonese is a language with nine spoken tones but in Mandarin there are four, said Dr Harvey, and it would be hard to learn Cantonese and “make all those sounds” if someone hasn’t learned them as a child.
The article closes with some figures, taken from New Zealand’s Census 2013, of possible interest:
NEW ZEALAND CHINESE BY NUMBERS
- 171,204 — population total
- 122,964 — speak at least one or more Chinese languages
- 45,216 — NZ born, most speak only English
- 52,263 — speak Northern Chinese, including Mandarin
- 44,625 — speak Yue, including Cantonese
- 42,750 — speak a Sinitic language without further defining
source: How many people in NZ speak Chinese?, New Zealand Herald, December 3, 2015
One of my favorite programs, Wenlin Software for Learning Chinese, is having a special sale. Normally Wenlin costs US$99. But through December 31, 2015, Wenlin is available for just US$49 for the version you can download directly to your computer (Windows or Mac OS).
Truly, there are few things more beautiful than Wenlin’s
Edit → Make Transformed Copy → Pinyin transcription.
But Wenlin is filled with all sorts of other great features as well. And it comes with the electronic edition of the terrific ABC English-Chinese/Chinese-English Dictionary built in.
I love this program and use it on a near-daily basis, so I can recommend it highly.
If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone studying Mandarin, Wenlin would be a good choice.
To receive the special price, use the discount code CCMS2015.
“He’s much too unreasonable,” interrupted the Mathemagician again. “Why, just last month I sent him a very friendly letter, which he never had the courtesy to answer. See for yourself.”
He handed Milo a copy of the letter, which read:
667 394017 5841 62589
85371 14 39588 7190434 203
27689 57131 481206.
“But maybe he doesn’t understand numbers,” said Milo, who found it a little difficult to read himself.
“NONSENSE!” bellowed the Mathemagician. “Everyone understands numbers….”
— from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
The Taipei MRT system has announced that it may be adopting a nicknumbering system for stations within the system.
And, really, it should be obvious even to city officials what a bad idea this is, given what a complete failure the city’s previous attempt at a nicknumbering system was. (The old attempt, from 2000, had Ma Ying-jeou adding things such as “4th Blvd” to road signs rather than simply fix the signs to use correct Hanyu Pinyin. But the MRT system has used Hanyu Pinyin for years, so foreigners aren’t complaining about a lack of that in 2015.)
I have, however, been complaining for many years about mistakes in the names of some MRT stations and how the MRT system has chosen some bad names. To no avail. But when a politician with no particular history that I’ve seen of giving a damn about what foreigners in Taiwan want decides to grandstand his half-cocked notion, the authorities behind the MRT system jump to implement it, no matter what the supposed beneficiaries might want. Shame on them.
Indeed, this particular politician’s history is of opposition to what foreigners want in terms of signage, as shown by his partisan remarks in favor of Tongyong Pinyin (which is widely despised by Taiwan’s foreign population) and against Hanyu Pinyin (which is almost universally preferred). So I see ample reason to question his motives here.
This new nicknumbering system, by which MRT stations will be assigned additional names (e.g., “R13” and “O11”, for one particular station) is being touted as something aimed at helping foreigners. But I know of no foreigners who have needed any great help on the MRT system — at least not since the city finally implemented Hanyu Pinyin many years ago. Certainly there has been no great outcry from foreigners for any change of this sort. Instead, the nicknumbering system is simply a bad idea that will make things worse, not better. And it will be expensive to implement — money down the drain.
Let’s look at the fragment of the nicknumbering map that the Taipei City Government included with its post.
Try to ignore the horrific clutter for the moment.
Note the red line (which also has a line number … that no one uses except for the MRT system itself in its announcements, something implemented in the previous bad idea from the MRT system). Anyway, along the red line, Da’an Park (which the MRT system wrongly labels “Daan Park”) is nicknumbered “R06,” Da’an as R05, and Xinyi Anhe as R04. That would make Taipei 101 / World Trade Center station R03; and Xiangshan, which is presently the terminus, would be R02. The problem here is that at least two more stations are already planned for that end of the line: Songde (松德) and Zhongpo (中坡); that would mean the final(?) station would need to be oddly nicknumbered R00, though there are no other zero stations given elsewhere. And if any stations are added after that, either the whole system would need to be renumbered or the numbers would need to head into negatives. Absurd! Such is likely also the case with other lines.
This is the sort of thing that strongly indicates that the authorities haven’t really thought this through. They’re just going forward anyway, which is foolish.
For that matter, why are there zeros marked in the numbers below ten? (For example, why “R04” rather than “R4”?) Putting zeroes next to the capital letter O (for the orange line) is certainly not going to help clarity either. For example, are people going to get “O05” right at a glance? I doubt it.
Let’s get back to the matter of clutter. This is a real problem. The more information crammed into a map, the less clear the individual elements are.
And unlike distinct station names, nicknumbers are not easy to remember. If any foreign tourist asks someone how to get to BL13, for example, people likely won’t know how to answer them. Nicknumbering is thus the opposite of helpful, which is likely part of why almost no subway system in the world uses this, other than Tokyo, whose system is much larger than Taipei’s.
Also, I can’t help but wonder how they are planning on handling this in the announcements within the cars. Those announcements are in four languages (Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and English), which takes some time to get through. Adding nicknumbers in all of those languages is going to make for never-ending talking on the announcement system — and that’s without even figuring in the nicknumbers of transfer stations as well.
I note that, to date, the comments in English to the city’s Facebook post on this are more than twenty to one in opposition to the new system. Is anyone in the city government paying attention? I hope that readers here will add their own comments to the city’s Facebook page on this. (I’m not on Facebook myself.)
The last time the city of Taipei implemented nicknumbering for anything, this was met with near-universal derision from those it was supposedly designed to help. Most people in Taiwan’s foreign community quickly recognized it was a terrible idea — really, really terrible — which unfortunately didn’t stop Taipei from cluttering up the city’s signage with largely useless information. I would have thought that the city would have learned its lesson by now.
This photo from 2000 shows an almost perfect storm of bad ideas supposedly meant to help foreigners. Ma Ying-jeou, during his days as mayor of Taipei, gives a thumbs-up to a road sign with his new nicknumbering system. And above the sign for 4th Blvd is a street sign from Chen Shui-bian’s tenure as mayor. It’s in the much-hated Tongyong Pinyin romanization system — or what was Tongyong Pinyin until the designers of Tongyong Pinyin changed the system (e.g., zh –> jh) and made a lot of their own signs wrong. And to top it off, it employs InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion, another annoying bad idea that still infects the street signs of Taipei.
Here, Taipei City Government officials, is what most foreigners need and want: correct Hanyu Pinyin. For the most part, that’s what the MRT system already has. Don’t screw it up.
- Táiběi jiéyùn chēzhàn zhàn míng zēngjiā「chēzhàn biānhào」 (臺北捷運車站站名增加「車站編號」), Taipei City Government Facebook page (開放台北 – 北市府網路市政論壇), November 29, 2015
- Taipei plans to introduce coding system for metro stations, CNA, November 29, 2015
- 中文講完換英文！北捷報站順序將洗牌, TVBS, October 25, 2015
- 北捷不國際化！ 議員「數字編碼取代翻譯站名」, TVBS, November 17, 2015
- 民政局長非拍『馬』屁不可嗎？, press release by Taipei City Councilor Li Chien-chang (李建昌), February 7, 2000
It is my impression that most of what the bill detailed below calls for has already been enacted, so I’m not sure what’s really new here. But if those painfully obvious points indeed have not yet been codified into law, it’s about damn time. (Speaking of related things that are long overdue: how about full secondary education on Lanyu (Orchid Island), with at least some classes taught in the language there?)
Citing UNESCO on anything concerning Taiwan, whose government is excluded by the United Nations, certainly raises eyebrows. And it would surprise me if any of the languages of Taiwan’s tribes are not at least “vulnerable.” But, for the record and later reference, here’s the story.
The Executive Yuan passed a draft bill Thursday to foster the development of indigenous languages.
The draft bill states that the government should hold accreditation tests for aboriginal language proficiency and that signage written in indigenous languages should be installed at government agencies and public facilities in indigenous areas.
It will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation in the near future.
The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP, 原住民族委員會) said that Taiwan’s indigenous languages are important cultural assets and that indigenous languages are gradually dying out amid socio-cultural changes.
According to the UNESCO list of endangered languages, nine of the 42 languages and dialects spoken by Taiwan’s indigenous peoples are considered vulnerable: Amis, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Taroko, Tayal, Tsou, and Yami, while Kanakanavu, Kavalan, Saaroa, Saisiyat and Thao are in critical danger of disappearing, and Siraya is considered severely endangered.
The indigenous language development bill states that the CIP should work out a system for writing the languages, complete the compilation of teaching materials of the languages and formulate policies for their preservation.
The CIP should also hold accreditation tests for aboriginal language proficiency, work out policies to cultivate teachers of the languages, compile teaching materials and data, publish textbooks and promote the development and preservation of the languages by offering subsidies, according to the bill.
source: Cabinet approves indigenous language development bill, CNA, November 26, 2015
This supplies the most common male and female given names in Taiwan. If you’re writing a story about Taiwan and need “safe” names for characters, this is a good reference — at least if your story is set in the present or not too far past.
For the most common family names in Taiwan, see Taiwan personal names: a frequency list. The data there are a few years older but remain valid, with only slight changes in the order of frequency. And don’t forget that over here the family name comes first, e.g., “Chen Ya-ting,” not “Ya-ting Chen.”
For the rankings of individual names in given years, see my PDF of the most common given names in Taiwan.
Note: Although I refer to these as “Taiwanese” names, I give the Mandarin forms (since Hanyu Pinyin is a system for writing Mandarin), not names in Hoklo/Hokkien (the language often referred to as Taiwanese).
Most popular given names for Taiwanese males, born 1976–1994
|Hanzi||Pinyin||Spelling Likely Used by This Person|
Most popular given names for Taiwanese females, born 1976–1994
The names were derived from Chih-Hao Tsai’s list of 25 most common given names by year. I have added Pinyin and the spelling in the romanization system likely used by someone in Taiwan with that name (bastardized Wade-Giles). In addition, with the help of my wife, I assigned names to the categories of male or female.
The data are from the university entrance exams, 1994–2012. Positing that the students were age 18 when they took the exam supplies the range for years of birth.
It’s time again to play What’s That Character?
Feel free to ask others what they think, though enlisting the aid of historians and calligraphy masters would count as cheating, as all of these examples are not from a museum or a calligraphy scroll but from a sign outside a building meant to be read by all.
Chinese character number one:
Chinese character number two:
And Chinese character number three:
Here are the answers:
How’d you do?
*** SPOILERS BELOW ***
If you got even one right, hái bùcuò. That’s probably as well as or better than the average person literate in Chinese characters.
Here is the entire sign, which will probably make things much clearer.
If you’re a Mandarin speaker and used to reading Chinese characters, you can probably tell what the entire sign says without too much effort. But as this exercise may help to show, that is not because most people can truly read all the characters but because they can fill in the blanks, as it were, when presented with adequate context. Yes, those are all written in seal script, not in a modern style; but seal script is all that is given on the sign.
I want to stress that this isn’t a sign for a historical museum or even the Cultural Bureau. Nope, it’s for the Xinbei City Government’s Environmental Protection Department, here in lovely Banqiao. Those used to the ways of Taiwan (or maybe just the ways of the world) have probably already correctly guessed that it was the director who thought a seal-script font would be a good idea. (See the news stories below for more on that. Although the reports are from a couple of years ago, I took the photos just a couple of weeks ago.)
Don’t forget: If you want to put Chinese characters or tonal Pinyin in your comments, use the encoder first and copy and paste the results into the comments box.