Chinese language romanization in Taiwan
There are a large number of romanization systems used in Taiwan (officially the Republic of China). The first Chinese language romanization system in Taiwan— Pe̍h-ōe-jī, was developed first by Presbyterian missionaries and promoted by the indigenous Presbyterian Churches since the 19th century. Pe̍h-ōe-jī is also the first written system of Taiwanese Hokkien, a similar system for Hakka is also developed at this time. During the period of Japanese rule, the promotion of roman writing systems was suppressed under the Dōka and Kōminka policy. After World War II, Taiwan was handed over from Japan to the Republic of China. The romanization of Mandarin Chinese was also introduced to Taiwan as official or semi-official standard.
Today, many commonly encountered Taiwanese proper names (places and people) are written in Wade–Giles, a historic semi-official system. After a long debate, Hanyu Pinyin, the official romanisation system used in the People's Republic of China, became the national standard in Taiwan on January 1, 2009.
The contention surrounding romanisations has never been purely academic or in response to the needs of the foreign community in Taiwan, but rather clouded by partisan politics. As a result, romanisation of Mandarin in Taiwan in the 20th century was generally inconsistent and quite difficult for everyone—be they tourists, foreign-born residents or native-born Taiwanese—to interpret.
The following systems were official in the ROC:
- Gwoyeu Romatzyh (GR, 1928-1986)
- Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (MPS II, 1986-2002)
- Tongyong Pinyin (2002-2008)
- Hanyu Pinyin (since January 1, 2009)
(All except the last were locally developed by officials of the ROC)
Alongside these aforementioned nominally official systems, Wade-Giles has been widely used for decades in many contexts, such as in passports.
When Tongyong was introduced, place names — except the top level divisions — were romanised in Tongyong. Street and building signs have been normally transcribed in one of the official systems and not Wade-Giles, except in Taipei, where Hanyu Pinyin was adapted in the early 2000s, before the rest of the country.
Romanisation is not normally taught in Taiwan's public schools at any level. Consequently, most Taiwanese do not know how to romanise their names or addresses. Teachers use only Zhuyin ("bopomofo") for teaching and annotating the pronunciation of Mandarin. There have been sporadic discussions about using a romanisation system during early education to teach children Mandarin pronunciation (like how students in Mainland China learn Mandarin using Hanyu Pinyin). However, like all other aspects of romanisation in Taiwan, this is a controversial issue. The plan in the early 2000s to adopt Pinyin was delayed due to disagreements over which form to use (Tongyong or Hanyu). The move is complicated by the massive effort needed to produce new instructional materials and retrain teachers.
Textbooks teaching other languages of Taiwan — namely, Hoklo, Hakka, and Formosan languages — now also often include pronunciation in romanisations (such as modified Tongyong) in addition to Zhuyin. Textbooks purely supplemented by romanisation, without Zhuyin annotations, are very rare at the elementary-school level, since a sizeable minority of Taiwanese schoolchildren cannot easily read the English alphabet.
Government publications for teaching overseas Taiwanese children usually are completely bilingual, but only have Zhuyin in the main body of the texts and a comparison chart of Zhuyin and one or more romanisation systems. Those for teaching advanced learners (such as youths and adults) have infrequent phonetic annotations for new phrases or characters. These annotations, usually in the footnotes, are romanised, in addition to having Zhuyin.
Like most Mandarin instructional materials released in North America, phrasebooks and textbooks targeting Mandarin students from overseas (mostly adult learners and workers) in Taiwan usually include only Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks (accompanied by Traditional Chinese characters).
Place names 
The national government officially adopted Tongyong Pinyin in 2002  but allowed local governments to make their own choices. Consequently, Taipei, adopted Hanyu Pinyin. Taipei replaced its earlier signage, most of which had used a modified version of Wade-Giles influenced by the Postal department. Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second city, adopted Tongyong. Elsewhere in Taiwan, signs tend to be in a mixture of systems, with Tongyong Pinyin being increasingly common, but still having many signs left over from the MPS II (or even the GR) era. In September 2008, the Ministry of Education announced it was switching from Tongyong Pinyin to Hanyu Pinyin as of January 1, 2009, which is the current legal standard.
Romanisation errors are common throughout Taiwan, because of the shortage of a workforce trained in romanisation and the lack of political will for correct implementation. Many common errors are derived from the accent of Taiwanese Mandarin, such as interchanging the -ng and -n sounds. For example, guan and guang are often confused with one another on signs and plaques. Simple typos (such as replacing e with t) are also ubiquitous. The area with the fewest errors on official signage is Taipei. In Kaohsiung, because of the World Games 2009, the city sponsored a "Say It Right" effort, which fixed most of the romanization mistakes in the city. Since romanised signage is not a priority in areas with few foreign tourists, most errors occur in remote areas with limited resources (if there were any romanised signs to begin with).
Official websites of local governments also employ romanisation inconsistently. For instance, as of 2007[update], the Zhongli City Hall website's title and URL are still in MPS II (Jung-li). On the other hand, the Zhongli Land Office has updated its title to Tongyong (Jhongli), but URL remains in MPS II. Also, the Zhongli Household Registration Office have a Wade-Giles URL (Chungli) but refers to itself in Tongyong.
Personal names 
Most people in Taiwan have their names romanised using a variation of Wade-Giles. This simplified version employs no diacritics (tone marks, apostrophes and umlauts) and, in semi- and unofficial contexts, usually incorrectly capitalized. The first letter in the second character of the given names should be, according to governmental and academic conventions, in the lower case, but in reality usually not. For example, Lü Hsiu-lien is sometimes written incorrectly as Lu Hsiu-Lien, contrary to the set rules of Wade-Giles. The use of Wade-Giles is generally not out of personal preference but because this system has been used by most government offices' reference materials in Taiwan to date.
There are a few Taiwanese personalities (such as politicians) whose names are transcribed in obscure or idiosyncratic schemes. For instance, using any major romanisation, Lee Teng-hui's surname would have been Li. Vincent Siew's surname and Ma Ying-jeou's given name are also peculiarly romanised. The single closest romanization to Chen Shui-bian's name would be Hanyu Pinyin, except that Hanyu Pinyin never uses hyphens in given names.
Public and private enterprises are not bound to any set of standards in their English names. The variations in this areas are therefore even greater and unpredictable. Some choose to transliterate their names, but others to transcribe. The first parts of Chunghwa Telecom and China Airlines are actually identical in Mandarin, i.e., Zhonghua (中華), meaning "(of) China".
Many business owners use an ad hoc approach, just so long as the end result is pronounceable and visually pleasant. The Hualon Group and Yulon Motor have opted for readability and have lost a couple of letters (the second syllable would be long or lung in all major romanisations).
As many conglomerates in Taiwan are owned by the Hoklo, it is not uncommon to find companies that romanised their names in Hokkien. The Shin Kong Group, for example, is faithful to its Hokkien pronunciation (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Sin-kong) but not Mandarin.
Like those on street signs, romanisation on store signs and commercial products' labels are not yet systematized.
Other contexts 
Chunghwa Post currently provides official support to address romanisation in both Hanyu and Tongyong Pinyin. Prior to 2000, addresses were usually written in Wade-Giles or MPS II. Given the correct 5-digit zip code, the postal workers are usually able to deliver mail in any other romanisation as well.
Most of the universities in Taiwan have names in Wade-Giles, such as Cheng Kung, Chung Hsing, Feng Chia and Chiao Tung. A few with pre-Taiwanese existence were romanised using the Postal Guide, i.e., Tsing Hua, Soochow, and Chengchi (actually ad hoc, since it would be chih in Postal). Few universities have names in other local languages, such as Tamkang and Takming (both in Hoklo).
Since elementary, middle, and senior high schools are under the jurisdiction of the local government, they follow whatever romanisation the particular county or city uses at the time. For instance, during the first decade of the 21st century, the school signs outside of Taipei were usually in Tongyong Pinyin.
See also 
- Romanization of Chinese, a general discussion across regions
- Daoism–Taoism romanization issue, case study of the academic contention in romanizing Chinese
- Wade-Giles · Punctuation section, example of deviations from set standards in Taiwanese romanizations
- "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. 2008-09-18.
- "Gov't to improve English-friendly environment". The China Post. 2008-09-18.
- "Tongyong Pinyin the new system for romanisation". Taipei Times. 2002-07-11.
- "Taiwan Authority Concerned Passes Tongyong Pinyin Scheme". People's Daily Online. 2002-07-12.
- Global Chinese Language and Culture Center, Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, Republic of China. Accessed 2008-09-21
- "Ma remains Tongyong Pinyin holdout". Taipei Times. 2002-08-03.
- Mark Swofford, Taipei's nicknumbering system for street names. Accessed 2008-09-21
- Jung-Li City International Information Website - English version. Accessed 2008-09-21
- Jhongli Land Office of Taoyuan County - English version. Accessed 2008-09-21
- Jhongli City Household Registration Office, Taoyuan County - English version. Accessed 2008-09-21
- Postal Services - Zip Codes, Chunghwa Post. Accessed 2008-09-21
- A Comparison of Various Chinese Romanization Systems, summary from the Government Information Office (no GR)
- A comparison chart of Chinese romanizations, with Tongyong Pinyin highlighted and include GR
- Differences between Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin