Official Romanization System May not Fly

By Dong LIU, CND, 5 October 2002

[CND, 10/05/02] Taiwan's cabinet's approval of Tongyong Pinyin as the nation's official system for Romanization may not work if the local government disagree, according to political observers, the Taipei Times reported.

According to analysts, cabinet allows the local governments to decide whether they will follow the policy or not since the measure is an administrative order.

Emile Sheng, a political science professor at Soochow University, said that the government should first realize the fact that the Romanization system is made mainly for foreigners to better understand places and easy to travel around in Taiwan.

But instead of handling the matter in a professional manner, it becomes a political issue, Sheng said.

The politics is due to the origin of the two romanization systems under debate: the Hanyu Pinyin system implemented by the mainland versus the Tongyong system developed by Taiwanese linguists.

Taiwanese linguists argue that the Tongyong system is superior to the Hanyu Pinyin system because it is able to cope with not only Mandarin Chinese but also Taiwanese and Hakka. Many in Taiwan believe the local dialects are important elements in Taiwan's cultural identity.