Everybody knows how confused Taiwan is when it comes to pinyin, that’s no news. Likewise, it’s not surprising that few of the foreigners who came here without prior study have a firm grasp on any method of romanization, let alone a standard one. But one thing I’ve been noticing more and more is that all the “old Taiwan-hand” foreigners here seem to use the same funky romanizations. Two different bosses of mine wrote 罰寫 (which is fáxiĕ in pinyin) as “fasye”. Numerous old timers have written 中山 (which is zhōngshān in pinyin) as “chungshan”. One time, I read one of Michael’s posts about a restaurant he visited in Yŏnghé, very close to where I used to live. Despite the fact that I used to live within walking distance of the place, I didn’t realize where he was talking about until I asked him what some of his old Taiwan-hand pinyin meant. Similarly, I was once confused by a Leakypen posting which criticized the romanization used in a document and then went on to romanize 政治 (zhèngzhì) as “chengchi”. I pointed that out, and he defended the romanization as the “correct local romanization”. Knowing he’d been around a long time, I asked him how the system works. He didn’t get back to me, so I’m asking all the “old Taiwan-hands” out there!

If the correct way to romanize ㄓㄥ is “cheng”, ㄓ is “chi”, and ㄓㄚ is “cha”, then how are ㄔㄥ, ㄔ, and ㄔㄚ romanized in Taiwan? Also, are retroflexive r’s romanized at all? I.e., is a distinction kept between 俄 (ㄜ) and 二 (ㄦ) in Taiwanese romanization?

Obviously, I’m going to keep using the standard pinyin romanization system, and I’m not going to change the way my pinyin tone tool works to match some weird Taiwanese convention. I would love to learn what the convention is, though. I’ve read a bit about the history of romanization here and just assumed it was random, but there are way too many old-timers coming up with the same romanizations. There must be more to it than that. Anybody care to enlighten me?