Left to right okay, says Taipei

  • Education
  • Sunday, 17 Aug 2003

TAIWAN has decided to allow the Chinese language to be written from left to right, instead of right to left as it is done now. 

“This is an epoch-making change,” said Premier Yu Shyi-kun. 

The change in writing style will make it easier for Taiwanese to write on paper and the computer, and for foreigners to learn to write Chinese. 

“The revision is for Taiwan to link up with the world, for the convenience of using computers and for efficiency in processing official documents,” Yu said on Wednesday in a statement. 

Since the split with mainland China in 1949, Taiwan, in the name of preserving the Chinese culture, has been using the traditional Chinese characters, the old phonetic system to spell Chinese names, and the old writing style - from top to bottom and from right to left. 

Although many language reformists and foreigners have urged Taiwan to drop the old methods and adopt modern ways, as has been done in China, it has refused to do so. 

But as more and more people are using computers and under growing pressure from home and abroad, the Taiwan government finally decided to discard the old writing style while preserving the old Chinese characters and phonetic spelling of Chinese names. 

Advocates of language reform have said the traditional Chinese characters are too complicated and the old phonetic spelling confusing. 

However, the Taipei City Government, tired of waiting for the federal government to change the spelling style, said on Tuesday it would discard the old phonetic system and start spelling street names and school names with Hanyu Pinyin – the phonetic spelling used by China and accepted throughout the world. – dpa  

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