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Gov’t to improve English-friendly environment

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Officials of the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) have approved a landmark plan to standardize the romanization of Chinese terms into English in order to connect Taiwan with the international community, beef up the island’s competitiveness, and create a genuinely English-friendly environment for foreigners living and working in Taiwan.

Officials from various government agencies attending a coordination meeting decided to adopt the Hanyu Pinyin system used by the United Nations and the world community for Chinese romanization.

The system will replace the Tongyong Pinyin system — which is used only in Taiwan — adopted by the previous government of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The DPP administration regarded the selection of the romanization system is a political and ideological issue.

It decided to abandon the universal Hanyu Pinyin system mainly because it was originated and used also in China.

After spending billions of New Taiwan dollars in the past eight years, about 68 percent of the agencies at the central and local-level governments presently use the Tongyong Pinyin system, which that was invented and used exclusively in Taiwan, including the English street signs.

But foreigners and tourists have become more confused because the English spelling used at many places in Taiwan is like Greek to them.

Foreigners living and working in Greater Taipei are in the most miserable situation because of the signs in Taipei County, which was once ruled by a DPP magistrate which spent huge funds to change all public signs to conform with the only-in-Taiwan Tongyong Pinyin system.

But they then find that signs are spelled differently in the capital Taipei which has been using the universal Hanyu Pinyin system for the convenience of foreigners for years.

Ovid J.L. Tzeng, a Cabinet minister who chaired the meeting, said the decision of choosing the Hanyu Pinyin system over the Tongyong Pinyin system is absolutely not for political or ideological considerations.

Tzeng, a member and vice president of the Academia Sinica, the nation’s highest research institute, formerly served as education minister.

He noted that all nations in the world, except Taiwan, adopted the Hanyu Pinyin system and there is no need for Taiwan to invent a separate system to create confusion for everyone.

All English-language books and publications in the world use the Hanyu Pinyin system so that scholars can easily communicate with each other, he pointed out.

Many scholars and researchers find it is hard for their colleagues abroad to understand their research reports and dissertations at international meetings when they use the Tongyong Pinyin system in their articles or presentations.

Tzeng emphasized that Kaohsiung City, which is still ruled by the DPP, backs the Hanyu Pinyin system for the convenience of foreigners.

The Kaohsiung City Government will be hosting more international events in coming years when it strives to attract more foreign tourists and investment for its faltering economy.

A study by the Ministry of Education shows that government agencies that have been using the provincial Tongyong Pinyin system find it difficult to promote the system because it only create more confusions and misunderstandings rather than helping with consumers.

The central government will assist local governments to gradually switch back to the international system.

But local governments will not be able to get financial aid from the central government if they insist on using the provincial Tongyong Pinyin system for all new street signs, documents, tourist maps, and other things related to Chinese romanization.

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 Gov’t to improve English-friendly environment 
This file photo of The China Post shows the various versions of English spellings for street signs even in Taipei City. The Cabinet has decided to unify all Chinese romanization with the universal Hanyu Pinyin system for the convenience of foreigners and create a really English-friendly environment. (The China Post staff)

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