When I lived in Taiwan, I normally didn’t have a clue where I was going. The signage was not particularly helpful. I didn’t read Chinese, and, outside of Taipei, that’s mostly what you saw. Even when there were signs in English, there was an inconsistency with how street names were spelled.
Ask people to spell a word phonetically, and you’ll see variation. In Taiwan, up until recently, there were various systems used to translate words from Chinese into English. Unless there are standardized rules that everyone adheres to, variety might remain the spice of life, but getting from here to there is problematic.
Recognizing that when visitors come to Taiwan, whether for business or pleasure, they have a desire to be able to find their way easily, Taiwan has officially adopted the “hanyu pinyin writing system” for translating Chinese to English. This Reuters article explains the details about how the government is publishing a spelling guide in order to redo road signs in order to reflect the consistency. The changes will start in 2009.
No longer will you see “Minquan Road,” “Minchuan Road,” “Binjiang Street,” and “Pin Chiang Street” on various signs for the exact same street. See what I mean? Wouldn’t that drive you a bit NUTS?!
(Although, as you can see from the Flickr photo by onkio & di’s, some signs in Taiwan do reflect the adage, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” At least the part about the car getting towed.)