Take a look at the images below, to the uninitiated they appear to be promoting three different hotels, however they are all taken in the same place.
- an identical logo
- the word “hotel”
- and most importantly, the same Chinese characters
The three names photographed (there may be more we didn’t spot!) are:
- New Osaka Hotel: a correct English translation
- Shin Osaka Hotel: New has been written "Shin" using an old Taiwanese romanization system
- Xin Da Ban Hotel: New has been written "Xin" and Osaka has been written "Da Ban" using the standard Chinese pinyin system
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into Latin script and is used in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. Taiwan only adopted the use of standard pinyin in 2009 and take-up has been rather slow.
Whether in Mainland China, or as in this case Taiwan, it is important to remember that it is the Chinese name that counts. This applies as much for trying to track down your hotel late at night as it does for placing an order with your new Chinese supplier.
When visiting China, especially outside of the big cities, if possible always try to get names and addresses written in Chinese characters.
For the majority of Chinese people, invariably including taxi drivers, pinyin is like a foreign language and your attempts to read it will be greeted with nothing more than a puzzled look.
It's doubtful that the owners of this hotel will ever read this post, but if they do, our advice would be to choose an English name and stick to it. For the record New Osaka Hotel works just fine for us!