Taiwan’s MPS2 romanization system is not the same as Yale

Taiwan does not now nor has it ever officially used the Yale romanization system. But that hasn’t stopped the relatively common belief that the Yale romanization system for Mandarin can be found on some official signage here.

What most people take as Yale is in fact MPS2, a Taiwan-devised romanization system that dates from the mid 1980s. MPS2 was developed Taiwan in a vain attempt to counter the growing popularity around the world of Hanyu Pinyin. In other words, it was basically the Tongyong Pinyin of the 1980s, though its supporters (there must have been some) never embraced it with the same level of nationalistic fervor as Tongyong Pinyin has received from some quarters. Little wonder, then, that most people — including many who really should know better — don’t seem to have noticed that MPS2 even exits, much less that a great deal of the island’s signage remains in this system.

To some degree the confusion of MPS2 for Yale is understandable, given that the two systems have many points in common on which they differ with Hanyu Pinyin. Here are some examples.

-au rather than -ao

MPS II and Yale Hanyu
au ao
bau bao
chau chao
dau dao
gau gao
hau hao

-ung rather than -ong

MPS II and Yale Hanyu
chung chong
dung dong
gung gong
hung hong

chr, jr, r, shr

MPS II and Yale Hanyu
chr chi
jr zhi
r ri
shr shi

ts- instead of c-

MPS II and Yale Hanyu
tsai cai
tsan can
tsau cao
tseng ceng
tsou cou
tsu cu
tsung cong
tsz ci

And neither uses Hanyu Pinyin’s abbreviated vowel forms (such as -ui for -uei, -iu for -iou, and -un for -uen). But here we can begin to see some of the differences between MPS2 and Yale.

MPS II Yale Hanyu
chuei chwei chui
duei dwei dui
tzuei dzwei zui

Yale often uses w as a medial where other systems would use u.

MPS II Yale Hanyu
shuei shwei shui
suan swan suan
guang gwang guang

Yale often uses y as a medial where other systems would use i

MPS II Yale Hanyu
jia jya jia
niau nyau niao
chiung chyung qiong

This sign, in Banqiao, would read Shrjyan in Yale, not Shrjian, which is MPS2.
street sign reading 'SHR JIAN RD'

To review all of the similarities and differences among these and other systems, see my comparison chart of romanization systems.

To close, here are some more signs in MPS2. What in Hanyu Pinyin is written zhong is jung in both MPS2 and Yale. What in Hanyu Pinyin is xiao, however, is written differently in MPS2 and Yale: shiau and syau, respectively.

photo of street signs in Jilong. One sign reads 'JUNG 1 RD', the other 'SHIAU 1 RD'
This photo was taken in Jilong.

6 thoughts on “Taiwan’s MPS2 romanization system is not the same as Yale

  1. I notice that you recommend the book, “The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity.” I believe this book has an enormous amount of misinformation, but perhaps the most offensive and racist flaw in the book’s thesis is the idiotic assertion that Asians “lack creativity.”
    One only needs to look at the rich, marvelous history of China to debunk this claim. The Chinese, are in fact, one of the most creative civilizations on the planet. They invented everything from gunpowder to the rudder to silk harvesting to acupuncture to the compass to iron casting to the blast furnace to the abacus to printing to ceramics, etc. etc.
    A walk down the street of any major modern day Asian metropolis, from Bangkok to Taipei to Tokyo will quickly dispel the idea that Asians “lack creativity.” In fact, a growing share of the world’s most cutting-edge, innovative technologies are emerging from Asia these days. (Just to give one example, the upcoming cutting-edge Boeing Dreamliner is in reality more a Japanese/Chinese product than an American one).
    To be sure, Americans do lead in the number of Nobel Prizes received. But this is highly misleading: Nobels are awarded for only one narrow range of science (fundamental science). Given that the U.S. government is by a million miles the biggest spender of fundamental science R&D, it shouldn’t be surprising that Americans lead in Nobel prizes. Asians have traditionally been more interested in science that has immediate practical applications.
    In any case, the Asians are closing the gap on science and already graduate far more scientists and engineers than the U.S. does (a troubling omen for America’s future).
    Last, but not least, most East Asian secondary schools leave their American counterparts in the dust these days. If you doubt Asians are a creative, innovative people, then spend some time browsing the latest cutting-edge products at your local consumer electronics store some time. All those plasma TVs and other high-tech goods are made in Asia (and, increasingly with Asian know-how). Incidentally, the old conventional wisdom that “it’s cheaper to manufacture in Asia” no longer applies these days. Japan, for example, is no low-wage nation (average Japanese wages are around 30 percent higher than U.S. wages, for example).
    Also, note that Japan alone registers twice as many patents as the U.S. does these days, despite the fact Japan has less than half America’s population. So much for the idiotic, jingoistic American viewpoint that Asians “lack creativity.”

  2. You know, it seems to me that, instead of Americans spending their time pointing
    out supposed “flaws” in China’s written language, that we’d have our hands full just examining
    the flaws in our own language. English has an extremely bizarre spelling system that makes no
    sense and requires lots of pointless extra characters.
    We could save ourselves a huge amount of headache if we adopted simple, consistent,
    logical rules for spelling. No one would need to look up the spelling of a word ever
    again. No one would ever look at a written word and wonder how it was supposed to be pronounced.
    “Spelling Bee” contests would be a thing of the past.
    However, if we adopted such a system, I get the feeling that there would be a great outcry.
    English speakers would wonder why we’d adopted this new alien, cold, sterile method of
    writing our language. People would be anguished at what we did to the language of Shakespeare,
    all in the name of “convenience” “logic” and “simplicity.”
    Should the Chinese throw away their ancient writing system and adapt a Latin alphabet? Perhaps.
    But I think I understand why there’d be opposition in China to this idea.
    Once again, I don’t think Americans would be too warm to the idea of making our own language
    logical. Hell, we haven’t even gotten around to adopting the metric system and getting rid of
    our bizarre, senseless, hard-to-figure-out, archaic system of measurements.

  3. Like I thought: You haven’t read the book and probably don’t know anything about this topic. You’re just recycling some second- or third-hand misinformation. Why you would want to waste your own and other people’s time doing so is beyond me. If you should ever become interested in learning something about this, there are plenty of good books listed in my recommended readings section. The best one to start with is The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy.

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