Sunday, February 26, 2012

TAIPEI TIMES EDITORAL: "Ma should worry about Taiwanese, not Chinese"

A piece by Prof. Chuang Wan-shou appeared in Taipei Times.

While Chuang's points are well-taken, I personally think Zhuyin fuhao (bopomofo) is utterly inept. Hanyu Pinyin, through which many of us foreigners learned Chinese, is one of the best gifts Communist China had offered to this world. The international faculty in GITS is more open-minded, though never too "pro-China," PRC and ROC alike. (Written by Yoshi Amae)

1 comment:

  1. Let me add my personal view on the issue as the other foreign instructor at the Taiwan Studies Program: I think we should separate the issue of moth tongue education, and the importance of mother tongues in multicultural Taiwan from the issue how Mandarin Chinese (both in its Putonghua variant and the Huayu or Guoyu variant used in Taiwan) should be romanized.
    Taiwan has actively pushed forward for more education in the various mother tongues in Taiwan including Hoklo, Hakka and various aboriginal languages under the previous DPP government. Still, why are there no schools where Hoklo or Hakka is the primary language of education and Huayu the second language? To what degree are people encouraged and discouraged to use their own languages in an environment which highlights s much the importance of the “world language” Mandarin? Why is a basic knowledge of Hoklo, Hakka and aboriginal languages not part of the various examination systems for officials? Why is the standardization of Hoklo still discussed and not actively promoted by the government? Here Taiwan is still very much following a very Chinese centered approach which cannot imagine that regions like the European Union can flourish with various different languages and instead focus on one national language. Here I totally agree with Prof. Chuang.
    On the other hand, a unified Romanization system is the only chance that foreigners will continue to learn Chinese (also written in traditional characters) in Taiwan (Mandarin). No foreigner (not many at least) is willing to learn a Bopomofo system which in Taiwan is not used at all for public signs and only seen as a tool for learning Mandarin for children. Thus Hanyu Pinyin is the best system precisely because it is used everywhere with the exception of Taiwan in the Chinese (Mandarin) speaking world. Long discussion which Romanization system is better are therefore useless: the sheer number of foreigners used to Hanyu pinyin makes it the best system.
    For Romanized personal names (not for cities by the way) one can of course stick to Ma Ying-jeou instead of Ma Yingjiu and James Soong instead of Song Chuyu, as well as Tsai Ing-wen instead of Cai Yingwen. As the examples show, however, there is no rule - thus if, for example, one has only the Chinese characters at hand and has to Romanize a name, Hanyu Pinyin again is useful and used in most academic publications.
    Jens Damm