As if the problem of romanising street signs in Taiwan wasn’t already bad enough, it seems that in Keelung (基隆) the situation is even worse. The problem is not over the use of Tongyong Pinyin, MPS 2 or any other variation that might be used in Taiwan. In Keelung some streets have their names romanised using the Taiwanese* pronunciation.
Forget about asking the local residents for directions, though — chances are they won’t have a clue as to which road’s name you’re trying to spit out.
“I think street names using Taiwanese [romanization] are unhelpful to both foreigners and locals,” said Chang Chia-ming (張家銘), an employee at the Keelung Visitor Information Center.
“I’ve seen a lot of foreigners ask for directions [according to street signs’ Taiwanese romanization],” Chang said. “I can’t understand them. I have to think for a while before I finally guess which road they’re referring to.”
I am all for the promotion of the Taiwanese language, but I don’t think this is a very good way to go about it. The article says there are “historical and cultural factors” for using Taiwanese romanisation, but doesn’t explain what these factors are. Of course there are historical and cultural reasons why just about any street in Taiwan could have its name written in Taiwanese romanisation. However, the rest of Taiwan seems content using romanised forms of the Mandarin pronunciation. The only problem being the use of several different systems of romanisation.
What Taiwan really needs is a single standard system and ideally that system should be Hanyu Pinyin. However, it seems that every municipality seems to use whatever system it pleases without thought about how it actually works in practice.
* Taiwanese refers to Hoklo or Minnan. In Chinese 台語 or 閩南語.