Taiwan to standarize English spellings of place names


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan will standardize the English transliterations of its Chinese Mandarin place names by the end of the year, an official said Wednesday, after years of confusion stemming from multiple spellings.

An official from the Ministry of Interior said the island would use the locally developed “Tongyong,” system in its transliterations, rejecting use of mainland China’s Pinyin system, and the once common Wade-Giles system, introduced by two Englishmen in the late 19th century.

Over the past decade Pinyin has gained wide acceptance among foreign students of Chinese, even as Wade-Giles and other foreign systems have diminished in importance. Taiwan’s Tongyong system is virtually unknown outside the island.

But the Interior Ministry official insisted that Tongyong was still a good choice for a standard transliteration system.

“In the past, diverse spellings have caused confusion, so we have decided to remedy the situation,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Multiple transliterations of place names have often caused confusion for non-Chinese-literate visitors to Taiwan.

For example, a busy shopping street in Taipei is variously rendered as Chunghsiao, Zhongxiao and Jhongsiao.

According to Ministry of Interior’s Web site, exceptions to the Tongyong system will still be allowed for some well known tourist attractions, including Jade Mountain in central Taiwan and Taipei’s Yangmingshan.