Taiwan Adopts Pinyin!

China Times Focus News (1999.07.27)

System to translate Chinese into English -- Adopting Hanyu Pinyin

Translated by Shixing Wen

[Lin Shuling reported from Taipei] The controversial translation system from Chinese to English came to a preliminary resolution yesterday. In the meeting on educational reforms held yesterday, the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China decided to adopt the Hanyu Pinyin system, which is popular in the world and has been widely used in the Mainland. Vice Premier Liu Chao-Shiuan [Liu Zhaoxuan] said that the Ministry of Education would issue standards and coordinate with the Ministry of Transportation and local governments to change all romanized street names. Some place names that have cultural or historic background and those that have a long history may retain their current translated names. The translation of personal names is not enforced to conform with the new Pinyin system. There is no plan to change all the passports.

Over the decades, our country [i.e., Republic of China] was alone in the world not adopting pinyin, chiefly due to ideological considerations, for we did not want to use the same Chinese-English transliteration system that the Mainland uses. It is a remarkable breakthrough that the Executive Yuan decided to adopt the Hanyu Pinyin system yesterday.

Vice Premier Liu Chao-Shiuan iterated yesterday that the current decision had nothing to do with ideology and was made without taking ideological issues into consideration. According to information sources, some scholars on the Educational Reforms Task Force advocated that some modifications be made before adopting pinyin in order to differentiate it from the Hanyu Pinyin used in the Mainland. But their view was rejected. Liu Chao-Shiuan concluded that there is "no need to make unnecessary modifications".

Liu Chao-Shiuan pointed out that pinyin would be used only in the transliteration of street names and some place names. To study Mandarin Chinese, zhuyin fuhao will continually be used. As to dialects such as southern Fukienese (Min3 nan2 hua4) and Hakka (Ke4 jia1 hua4), there were still debates over what transliteration system to use. Therefore, no decision has been made yet.

Now that the decision was made yesterday in the meeting of the Educational Reforms Task Force of the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Education would study the technical issues and then submit its recommendations to the Executive Yuan for approval. Liu Chao-Shiuan said that the Ministry of Education would issue a series of standards on Hanyu Pinyin for the whole country [i.e., Republic of China] to use. The government would coordinate with the Ministry of Transportation, local governments and other relevant units to change the English names of all streets.

Liu Chao-Shiuan opined that it might not need to change the romanized names of those places that have historic or cultural background or have been used for a long time. For example, the romanize names of some major places like Taipei and Kaohsiung have been used for quite a long time and been widely used throughout the world. They might not need to be changed. Other place names like Mankah [Wanhua] and Tamsui [Danshui] have historic or cultural characteristics. Such names could still be discussed as whether their English names should be changed or not.

As to the English translation of personal names, Liu Chao-Shiuan said that in principle, we should respect individuals' wish. It is not imperative that which transliteration system be used, let alone that all passports be changed.

Originally Website: http://www.chinatimes.com.tw/news/papers/ctimes/cfocus/88072701.htm