Bing Maps for Taiwan

The maps of Taiwan put out by GooGle are plagued with errors in their use of Pinyin. But what about that other big company with deep pockets? You know: Microsoft. How good a job does Microsoft’s Bing do with its maps of Taiwan?
map of Taiwan from Bing, showing Wade-Giles place names

I won’t keep y’all waiting: After examining Bing’s maps of Taiwan the two words that came first to mind were incompetent and atrocious.

The country-level map is odd, offering Wade-Giles. And although the use of the hyphen is irregular, I will give Bing points for getting at least Wade-Giles’ apostrophes right. So, although some place names on the map are decades out of date (e.g., Hsin-chuang, Chungli, Chunan, Kuang-fu), at least they’re not horribly misspelled within that system.

It’s at the street level that Bing’s weirdness becomes most apparent. For example, below is part of Bing’s map of Banqiao.

I added the highlighting.

click for larger map

This tiny but representative fragment of the map has not one but four romanization systems:

  • MPS2: Gung Guang, Min Chiuan, Shin Fu (Even within MPS2, none of those should have spaces or extra capital letters.)
  • Hanyu Pinyin: Banqiao (This is the only properly written place name on this map fragment.)
  • Tongyong Pinyin: Jhancian, Sianmin, Sin Jhan
  • Gwoyeu Romatzyh(!): Shinjann (This is the same road as the one marked “Sin Jhan”. In Hanyu Pinyin, which is what officially should be used here, this is written “Xinzhan”.)

A few more points about this small fragment of the map:

  • Wen Hua could be either MPS2 or Hanyu Pinyin, but not Tongyong Pinyin. And it should be Wenhua.
  • Minan is missing an apostrophe. (It should be Min’an.)
  • Banchiao is just wrong, regardless of the system. They were probably going for MPS2 but erroneously used an o instead of a u: Banchiau.
  • Sec 1 Rd should be Rd Sec. 1.
  • Mrt should be MRT.

So that’s four systems, plus additional errors.

There’s much, much more that’s wrong with this than is right. That’s even more evident on a larger map — and that’s without me bothering to mark orthographic problems in the Pinyin (e.g., Wen Hua instead of the correct Wenhua).
click for larger view

Here bastardized Wade-Giles (e.g., “Mrt-Hsinpu” at top, center — and, FWIW, in the wrong location) has been added to the mix, making a total of five different romanization systems, as well as some weird spellings, e.g., U Nung, Win De, Bah De, Ying Sh — and that’s without including my favorite, JRLE, because that one is correct in MPS2 (“Zhile” in Hanyu Pinyin).

The main point is that vast majority of names are spelled wrong. And among the few that are spelled correctly, those that are written with correct orthography can be counted on one hand. So, to the words above (incompetent and atrocious) let me add FUBAR.

The copyright statement lists not only Microsoft but also Navteq. The Taiwan maps on the latter company’s site, however, are different from those on Bing. Navteq’s are generally in Hanyu Pinyin, though almost invariably improperly written (e.g., Tai bei Shi, Ban Qiao Shi). And despite the prevalence of Hanyu Pinyin, they still contain other romanization systems (e.g., Jhong Shan) and outright errors (e.g., Shin Jahn).

So an update from Navteq wouldn’t be nearly enough to fix Bing’s problems, which are fundamental.

persistent MPS2

Poagao sent me this photo of signs on Zhong’an Bridge, which joins Xindian and Zhonghe (both in Taipei County). (So the zhong is probably for Zhonghe; but I’m not sure what the an is meant to be short for.) The signs are a good illustration of the sloppy approach to romanization in Taiwan. Because this is a new bridge, these are definitely new signs and thus should be in Hanyu Pinyin, which is official not just in Taipei County but nationally.

two large directional signs above a road across a bridge, as described in this post

As the table below shows, however, the only name that definitely isn’t written in MPS2 — the romanization system that predated Tongyong, which in Taiwan predated Hanyu Pinyin — is a typo. MPS2 hasn’t been official for the better part of a decade.

on the sign system Hanyu Pinyin
Junghe MPS2 Zhōnghé
Benchian wrong in all systems Bǎnqiáo
Jingping (MPS2, Tongyong, Hanyu Pinyin) Jǐngpíng
Shioulang MPS2 Xiùlǎng

And there’s no excuse for making “Shioulang Bridge” so small and squashed. This also brings to mind another aspect of Hanyu Pinyin: because of its design and the fact that it uses abbreviated forms of some vowel combinations (e.g., uei -> ui, iou -> iu), it doesn’t need as much horizontal space as MPS2 or Tongyong Pinyin, which means it can be written with larger letters — an important factor in signage. (See the second table of the comparative typing chart to see such differences between Hanyu Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin.)

system spelling
MPS2 Shioulang
Tongyong Pinyin Sioulang
Hanyu Pinyin Xiulang

Tainan County signage

I recently spent a few days in Tainan County and, as is my habit, paid special attention to the signage.

Although the signage in the city of Tainan is primarily — or perhaps now exclusively — in Tongyong Pinyin (which is now supposed to be changed to Hanyu Pinyin), the situation in the remainder of Tainan County is not so clear-cut. Basically, from what I saw most Tainan County towns do not have street signs in Tongyong. Indeed, many of them don’t have street signs in any romanization system whatsoever.

In some small towns there are some local signs in Tongyong. For example, the following three:


That one’s OK, as Tongyong goes. But as for the next two address plates, is it really too much to ask that the people who make signs learn what a baseline is and what it’s for, that sizes of letters should not be altered on a whim, and that amateurish font faces are not to be used?

Jhongsiao Rd.

Pingdeng St.

(Note the “Pingdeng” spelling above. It’s relevant to the next example.)

OK, so those were in Tongyong Pinyin. But two signs about one block from where the previous shot was taken reveal more of the picture of local signage in Tainan County.

Tongyong most certainly is not the only romanization found in Tainan County.
described below

Together on one pole we have “JIA DUNG RD. / 佳東路” and “Piandeng St. / 平等街”. “Jiadung” is MPS2 for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be Jiādōng (Jiadong), while “Piandeng” is a typo (presumably from Tongong, as this is a newer sign that doesn’t match the style used on other MPS2-era signs in the area) for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be Píngděng (Pingdeng). It would be spelled Pingdeng in Tongyong Pinyin as well, as can be seen above.

And some signs have no romanization whatsoever and should have been put out of their misery a long time ago.

But all sorts of old things can occasionally be found on the streets of Tainan County.
photo of man riding in a cart pulled down a Tainan County city street by a cow