2009-12-07

Update: Taiwan Place Names

The Taiwan Railways Administration has announced that the following city names will retain their familiar romanised spellings rather than be converted to the New Phonetic System (shown in parentheses) that is now standard:

Changhua (Zhanghua)
Chiayi (Jiayi)
Hsinchu (Xinzhu)
Hualien (Hualian)
Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong)
Keelung (Jilong)
Pingtung (Pingdong)
Taichung (Taizhong)
Taipei (Taibei)
Taitung (Taidong)

The spelling of some place names, such as Tainan and Taoyuan, will remain the same because the spellings are identical in the new system.

This news item will strike readers living abroad as prosaic but the clarity is welcome to those of us living in Taiwan. Standardisation has been lacking for a long time. As you can see from the results shown in parentheses above, the New Phonetic System (called Hanyu Pinyin in China) yields at least two ugly, user-hostile spellings for every elegant one. Still, it's a standard. Individual choices are preserved in Taiwan for the spellings of personal names.

Thanks to the Bradt Travel Guide for sharing the news.

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