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How can an Indian get a UK visa?

In June 2019, I applied for my UK (BIVS) short stay (6 month tourist) single entry visa by the standard process and would like to share my experience, so that this discussion is updated and relevant for those looking to apply for their UK visa from India. My UK (BIVS) visa includes travel to the Republic of Ireland: there is no extra charge for the British -Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS); if you request for it, it gets included with your UK visa.SUMMARY OF THE PROCESS:After registering on the UK government’s visa application website, you have to fill out a 12 page document. After you fill out this application and make your payment (online), you get transferred to the VFS site, where you have to upload all your documents.You have to upload at least a couple of documents to be allowed to move onto the next stage of the process (you can come back later and upload the rest of your documents).Once the documents have been uploaded, you get directed to their appointment page where you get to chose an appointment to meet a VFS official, and to hand over your passport/s, the printout of your appointment checklist sheet, and complete the biometrics.Unless you have opted for and paid for a fast track process, it will take minimum 14 working days before you get your UK visa.You need to be patient with the process as there is no way to find out about the progress of your application or what type of visa has been granted; you will only know when you receive your passport.The application process is done entirely online, so, you need a computer and a good internet connection, and for the payments: your credit card and cell phone to receive your OTP.The online application process is in two parts: first on the UK government site, and then on the VFS site.Be prepared to keep at least three hours (if not more) to fill out the forms. It will save you lots of time if you read the application process first and gather all your documentations: it just makes it easier to fill in all the details!To start the UK visa application process, you have to register on the UK government’s page for Standard Visitor visa . Your user id and password will be immediately emailed to you. This allows you to take your time instead of completing your application in one sitting; you can save your details and come back to your application as often as you need to.The information they ask for is pretty straight forward. What's a pain is having to give your travel history for the past ten years: this is where being a frequent international traveller is no fun: I had to go through three passports to check the countries I had travelled to, with my entry and exit dates.COST & VALIDITY: A short stay or six month UK (BIVS) single entry visitor visa costs INR 8990/-. The BIVS stamp allows you to travel to the Republic of Ireland. Your UK tourist visa will be valid from the day before the travel date you gave on your application. For example: if you gave August 1st as the start of your travel date to enter UK, your UK visa will be valid from July 31st.DURATION: It took 21 days (16 working days) to get my passport with the UK visa. I applied from Bangalore and my VFS appointment was on June 26, 2019. The UK visa processing center for this region is in Chennai. I received a generic formatted email on July 15th, saying a decision has been made on my application and to collect my passport. My passport arrived at the Bangalore VFS center the next day, around noon.THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTATION REQUIREMENT PROCESS:DOCUMENTS REQUIRED TO BE UPLOADED: this is as of June 15, 2019 requirements (they keep updating or changing these requirements). PDFs work the best for uploading your attachments.COVERING LETTER: though not an application process requirement, is apparently a must to include. References for A Sample Cover Letter for Tourist Visa and How to Create One. I have seen people handwriting it at the VFS Bangalore office and then being charged to have it scanned and uploaded. If you are applying for a UK (BIVS) visa, include it in your cover letter.INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR VISIT: documents showing any plans you have made, such as:Tour details: write the details as you gave on your UK visa application with the address of your friends or hotels where you will be staying.Flight details: give your flight plans. You do not have to show a confirmed or paid ticket - just a trip itinerary. I used British Airways’ plan a trip to show my flight details.Letter of invitation: if you are staying with family or friends in the UK, you would need a letter of invite written by your host (with their UK passport details), or the wedding invite, if you are attending a friend’s wedding. Some guidance on Writing a Letter of invitation for UK VisaEvidence of sponsors immigration status in the UK: if you are staying with friends or family in the UK, you would need to include a copy of your host’s passport (they no longer have to give their financials).MONEY (either income or savings)Bank Statements - past six months. Tip: if you download your statements as a pdf from your e-account, you don’t need a bank official to stamp or sign it.Tax returns - past three years tax returns. If it pertains to you: include bank books/bank letters/ bank certificate/ crop receiptsHOME ADDRESS - documents showing where you live, such as: Property deed/mortgage statements/tenancy agreements/ accountant’s letters/ land registration documents. Your Adhaar Card, electricity bill, property tax receipt, property certificate/kathaEVIDENCE OF ASSETS - documents showing you own investments or your own property or landADDITIONAL INFORMATION - evidence of family members in your home country whilst you travel, and valid visas in your passport.Passport copies of your parents and/ or children living in India.Valid visas: add copies of valid visas in your passport and past UK visas.Tips:EFFICIENCY: If you upload all your documents yourself, all you need to take with you for your VFS appointment are your passports (including old passports) and your checklist, signed by you. You will finish the process very quickly as your checklist will have a list of all the documents you have uploaded. However, if anything is missing, VFS won't accept your application and will charge you extra to scan and upload the necessary documents. So, it would be a good idea to carry hard copies of all your documents, and cash for such emergencies.ADVANTAGE+: Your UK visa application becomes much stronger and to your advantage if you show visas for UK, USA and Australia. Apparently having a valid Schengen or Canadian visa does not influence the decision process.TRAVEL TO IRELAND ON YOUR UK (BIVS) VISA: Indian citizens can now travel to the Republic of Ireland on a single visa - all you have to do in your UK short term visa application is write that you are also travelling to the Republic of Ireland and would need a BIVS stamp with your UK short term visit visa and include your Republic of Ireland itinerary in your trip details. Keep in mind that without this BIVS extension (it comes in small print at the bottom left of your UK visa - see attached picture), you will not be allowed to enter the Republic of Ireland (don’t get confused if you travel to Belfast - its part of the UK). You do not need a multi-entry UK visa for the BIVS privileges. A single entry short stay UK visa will allow you unlimited travel between both countries until your visa is valid. With a UK (BIVS) stamp you must first enter the UK and then travel onto Ireland. You can get more information about (BIVS) British-Irish visa schemeBROWSER: Chrome can get very frustrating to use, especially when trying to upload documents. If you experience this, recommend that you work on explorer; it will make the application process much easier, as it does not hang or lock you out of the system, like I experienced using Chrome (Google, if you read this, please fix this!)AIR TICKETS: You do not have to show a confirmed/paid flight ticket for the UK application process. I booked a trip itinerary on British Airways Plan your trip ; the itinerary is emailed to you which you can upload with your documents on the VFS site.PASSPORT VALIDITY: Check the number of free pages and the expiry date of your Indian passport. You must have sufficient empty pages on your passport or your visa will not be granted (happened to a friend travelling with us). If your passport is expiring soon, and even if you have a valid UK visa (or any visa for that matter), you may not be allowed to board your international flight if your Indian passport is valid for six months or less: Do get a new passport before you travel, as it’s just not worth the risk.PHOTOS: you do not need photographs anymore for the UK visa application - biometrics have replaced this process.TRAVEL INSURANCE: was not a requirement when I applied for my UK visa.UPLOADING DOCUMENTS: do upload all the documents yourself - it’s fairly easy to do. VFS charges INR 750/- per application to scan and upload your documents, which is, in my opinion, a waste of your money and time.GETTING AN APPOINTMENT WITH VFS: Unless you want to pay for a slot, look for the black (no cost) slots which are usually in the mornings starting from 8:00 am. I found lots of available free ‘black’ slots to choose from.ENGAGING WITH VFS: Keep in mind that you will engage only with VFS executives and not UK consulate officials. The VFS executives are trained to be polite and can give limited information - they do not have access to your visa process nor can they influence the decision process. So, don't waste your time and money trying to get information from them about the progress of your visa. You just have to wait it out.COLLECTING YOUR VISA & PASSPORT: You will have no idea what kind of UK visa has been granted till you open your passport.The visa business makes money out of its ‘value added’ services. VFS charges you a fee to have your passport couriered to your home. It’s worth using this service if you are in a hurry to receive your passport, as it will be delivered to you over weekends. Otherwise, it should be delivered to your VFS center by noon, on the next working day after you receive the standard, generic email from the UK visa office. The mail does not tell you whether you have been granted a visa, or what type of visa. It just requests you to collect your passport from your VFS center, if you have not paid for it to be couriered to you. Check the VFS site for collection details and keep in mind that VFS will charge you Rs 600/- if you collect your passport after 3:00 pm. Anyone may collect your passport on your behalf. You need to handover your VFS receipt and show your identification (adhaar card would do).On July 16th, the day after I received the email to collect my passport, I went to the VFS center at 8:00 am and my passport had not yet arrived. They were kind enough to take down my phone number and called me when it arrived at noon. And, no, they did not charge for this service :)I was granted a six month multi-entry UK (BIVS) visa, validity from a day before I started my travel.

Does anyone still use Gwoyeu Romatzyh to romanise Chinese?

[無調漢語拼音的缺憾 Toneless Hanyu Pinyin can cause serious problems]GR Tonal Spelling makes names maximally distinctive; Hanyu Pinyin leads to a confusing blend of totally unrelated names that sound quite different to Chinese ears, but look exactly the same to foreign eyes. TL;DR 性命攸關 Outside of China, not using GR Tonal Spelling can have serious, or even life-changing consequencesThree names that look totally different in GR Tonal Spelling: confusingly blended in Hanyu Pinyin:Imaginary, but plausible names: 陸六贏醫師, 魯劉穎大師 and 盧柳鶯大師1. 陸六贏醫師 Dr. Luh Liowyng (Lù Liùyíng Yīshī), the dentist, bears the auspicious name 六贏 “six successes”2. 魯劉穎大師 Master Luu Liouyiing (Lǔ Liúyǐng Dàshī), the photographer, bears the name 劉穎, which is a pun on the word 留影 “take a photo [as a souvenir]” (this phrase is often used for photo captions)3. 盧柳鶯大師 Master Lu Leouing (Lú Liǔyīng), the musician, bears the name 柳鶯 “[literally] willow warbler”, one of many species of songbirds, some of which can be found in Taiwan.In Hanyu Pinyin (promulgated in 1958), Lù Liùyíng ≈ Lǔ Liúyǐng ≈ Lú Liǔyīng are spelled with exactly the same letters. These names look almost identical to foreigners who don’t know Chinese (most of whom ignore the tiny, untypable tone marks) but they sound and look completely different to Chinese police and bureaucrats (Chinese adults only care about the characters; Hanyu Pinyin is a study aid for small children).In GR Tonal Spelling (promulgated in 1928, but ignored by the PRC government), these three names look completely different: Luh Liowyng ≠ Luu Liouyiing ≠ Lu Leouing. Foreign police and bureaucrats cannot and will not learn Chinese characters. They only care about the spelling. Different spelling → obviously different peopleAnswer: Yes, people in Taiwan still use GR Tonal Spelling (a.k.a. Gwoyeu Romatzyh), but it is hiding in plain sight where most foreigners don’t bother looking (not just tour buses ;-). GR Tonal Spelling is used for naming people, clothing, household goods (rubber bands, insecticide), Chinese medicine, noodles, beverages, snacks, doctors’ offices, beauty parlors, restaurants, companies, schools etc.I took all of the photos below within the last month. I live in Taipei, but I managed to locate several samples of GR Tonal Spelling even in Kaohsiung, a DPP stronghold where Southern Min is more popular than Mandarin][Jyma Liuhdow 芝麻綠豆, GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu Romatzyh)—a children’s clothing brand I found in a traditional market] [zhīma lǜdòu][Song Jer CPA 松哲會計師事務所, GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu Romatzyh)—an accounting firm on Nanjing West Road in Taipei. The sign is bigger than the side of a bus, but is only visible when people look up from their cell phones ;-)] [Sōng Zhé][Piin U Bakery 品屋麵包蛋糕, GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu Romatzyh), a bakery/coffee shop in Kaohsiung] [Pǐn Wū][Shiow Chwan Hospital 秀傳醫院, GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu), a private hospital with branches all over Taiwan; name is slightly misspelled (omitted -i-)] [Xiù Chuán][Yuh Tay Farm 裕泰農場, GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu)][jingpiin pyishye 精品皮鞋, GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu), shoe shop in Kaohsiung]GR Tonal Spelling still appears side by side with Bopomofo in many monolingual Chinese dictionaries (字典、詞典) published in Taiwan. Foreign students tend to only consult bilingual dictionaries published outside of Taiwan, so they mostly don’t notice GR’s continued existence.[In Taiwan, dictionaries for native speakers include Bopomofo only, or a mixture of Bopomofo and GR Tonal Spelling/Hanyu Pinyin. Unfortunately, Pinyin is gaining ground; I saw these books in the 國語日報社 Mandarin Daily News bookstore]When it comes to romanization, what most foreigners do notice is the major exception to the use of GR Tonal Spelling: place names, which are a chaotic battlefield for three competing systems: the decrepit 150-year-old Wade-Giles system (and its cousin: Postal Romanization), 1958 Hanyu Pinyin and a modified Pinyin system (slightly different spellings) used mostly in southern Taiwan.Edit: GR Tonal Spelling still survives in certain localities:[Shinnyih Street 信義街 GR Tonal Spelling, 29 June 2019 (Gwoyeu Romatzyh, street sign)] [Xìnyì Jiē, Hanyu Pinyin]Rarely Asked Questions (RAQs)Many people take it for granted that one single commonly-used romanization system is all we need: whatever is used by the majority of Chinese people. The Hanyu Pinyin for everybody approach neglects to consider two important facts:(1) For many western learners, the use of optional diacritics implies that tones are also optional (“Tones are too subtle. I don’t need to be a perfectionist: muddling through is good enough. If I can find the time, I’ll master tones later!”)(2) For Chinese people who spend time abroad, an ill-considered choice of spellings can facilitate identity theft or lead to confusion. The consequences can include canceled credit, job loss, mistaken arrests, medical errors and expensive lawyer’s fees.Rarely-Asked Questions:RAQ 1: Who needs to use romanization?RAQ 2: What is the purpose of romanization?RAQ 3: Why should everyone use the same romanization?RAQ 4: Which problems does Pinyin (un)intentionally ignore?RAQ 5: How is 1928 GR Tonal Spelling better than 1958 Hanyu Pinyin?RAQ 1: Who Needs To Use Romanization?A: Children learning to read and write their native language for the first timeB: Chinese adults who want to# look up the correct pronunciation of less common or problematic words or characters# produce or consult lists or indexes# input characters on a computer or smartphoneC: Foreign students of Chinese, who need a tool for learning and annotating characters, and inputting them on a computer or smartphoneD: Foreign visitors who need an easy way to get around in China (identify people’s names, place names, names of products, items on a menu etc.)E: People outside of China who need easily-identifiable spellings for Chinese people and thingsRAQ 2: What is the purpose of romanization?Groups A & B: Romanization is supposed to correctly and unambiguously annotate the sounds of Chinese. Everything that sounds different to Chinese ears (initials 聲母, medials 介音, finals 韻母, and tones 聲調) should be explicitly marked when romanized. However, because of redundancies that are an integral part of Chinese phonology (音系規則, the Chinese sound system), people (especially computer users) can take shortcuts: tones are often left out, and IMEs (input method editors) can even ignore medials and finals (i.e. a computer user can type HYPY instead of hànyǔ pīnyīn: both yield the same result 漢語拼音).Group C: Foreign students are not aware of how Chinese sounds form patterns. Unlike native speakers, who learn phonology with their mother’s milk (so to speak), foreign beginners have definite trouble dealing with Hanyu Pinyin’s shorthand spellings.Hanyu Pinyin was designed for the convenience of native speakers of Chinese, so it is a less than ideal system for foreign learners, especially in the early stages.Group D: Tourists and short term visitors assume that Chinese is very difficult, so if they can go about their business without too much trouble, they are generally satisfied with Pinyin.Group E: This group has some limited, but very specific requirements that are not at all obvious to Chinese people who spend all their lives in a Chinese-only environment. Chinese people living in other countries need to be easily and unambiguously identified without referring to the Chinese characters of their names. This is where Hanyu Pinyin can cause EXTREMELY SERIOUS PROBLEMS.RAQ 3: Why should everyone use the same romanization?The five groups of users mentioned above have different needs that cannot all be properly served by Hanyu Pinyin. In the 1950s, when Hanyu Pinyin was designed, the world was a different place. The committee that set up and promulgated this romanization only needed to consider the needs of Chinese people within China. 60+ years later, the millions of Chinese who now live, travel or study abroad are affected by the shortcomings of Hanyu Pinyin’s shorthand spellings. Foreigners can also benefit from more than one approach.RAQ 4: Which problems does Pinyin (un)intentionally ignore?In 1956, Pinyin’s designers, who were influenced by Soviet linguists such as А. А. Драгунов 龍果夫, strove to create a simple China-only spelling system with single-letter spellings for each consonant. Thus, hard-to-type letters were used for common sounds: {ç = ch}, {ʐ = zh}, {ч = j}, {ŋ = ng}. Cyrillic, IPA and Latin letters were mixed together with no thought given to ease of use on standard ASCII typewriter keyboards: Robert Matthews (馬學進)'s answer to Why did the Chinese language begin using Latin letters for Pinyin?The 1958 final revision of Hanyu Pinyin finally settled on an all-Latin alphabet solution “with Chinese characteristics”, including some unique letter values that are not commonly used by European languages, such as q, x, z, c, u and i.Thus, people whose family name is either 徐 Xú or 許 Xǔ (both very common Chinese surnames: Shyu & Sheu in GR Tonal Spelling) are both spelled Xu, which many speakers of English will assume is pronounced the same as “Zoo”. Gross mispronunciations aside, Hanyu Pinyin can lead to much more serious problems.Because Pinyin tone marks are optional, the foreigner-readable versions of birth certificates, diplomas, degrees, household registration papers, hospital records, leases, licenses, passports and other documents do not show tones.Readers may ask: So what? Foreigners can’t pronounce tones anyway! What difference does it make?Here’s why. Including tones, Mandarin Chinese has about 1200 different syllables. For the sake of argument, let us assume that each and every syllable in Mandarin could be used as part of a name (obviously not true). Because most Chinese names consist of three syllables, GR Tonal Spelling could be used to write a maximum of 1200*1200*1200 = 1,728,000,000 phonetically distinctive names (although this would never be attempted, such a scheme would theoretically be enough for every person in China to have a unique name)., because Hanyu Pinyin omits tones, there is only a maximum of 400*400*400 = 64,000,000 distinctive names. Chinese names spelled in GR Tonal Spelling are much more distinctive than toneless Hanyu Pinyin names. 1,728,000,000 [GR] / 64,000,000 [PY] = 27 times more distinctive!Another way to put this: omitting the tones in romanized three-character Chinese names leads to potential information loss of as much as 96%.RAQ 5: How is 1928 GR Tonal Spelling better than 1958 Hanyu Pinyin?[Animated GIF: How abandoning GR Tonal Spelling led to scrambled Chinese surnames][Animated GIF: Different-Sounding Chinese Surnames That Are Unfortunately Blended In Pinyin]GR Tonal Spelling (a.k.a. Gwoyeu Romatzyh, National Phonetic Alphabet Version 2) was created by a small subgroup (數人會) of the committee responsible for creating National Phonetic Alphabet Version 1 (also known by the name Bopomofo or the anachronistic spelling Zhuyin Fuhao).The most important scholar behind the creation and popularization of GR Tonal Spelling is China’s greatest modern linguist, 趙元任 Chao Yuenren, a genius educated in the US who used his knowledge of mathematics, physics, music theory, phonetics and Chinese phonology to create a system based on “native speaker intuition” that also takes English orthographic habits into account (blending the two was not at all an easy task).GR Tonal Spelling is a “green” romanization that follows the Principle of Economy 經濟原則 and its three basic rules: keep, change, add 留改加. The 1st tone is usually the basic, unmodified form (“Keep”). The other three tones are spelled by making minimal changes to the basic form (“Change”), usually a different spelling for a glide vowel. If this is not possible, a letter is added (“Add”).Thus, tiau is a first tone form (spelled tiao in Hanyu Pinyin). The other three tones are spelled tyau, teau and tiaw. Notice how in each case the shape of the glide letter imitates the tone contour: The red bolded strokes of “y”, “e” and “w” are GIANT, indelible tone marks typable on any ASCII keyboard. They also provide valuable mnemonics for foreign learners struggling to remember the correct tones of words such as mae 買 and may 賣: “buy” and “sell”.Robert Matthews (馬學進)'s answer to As an English speaker, what's the best way to learn Chinese?[Animated GIF: 2nd tone tiau → tyau in GR Tonal Spelling; the tone mark is blended with the spelling of the medial vowel][Animated GIF: 3rd tone tiau → teau in GR Tonal Spelling; the tone mark is blended with the spelling][Animated GIF: 4th tone tiau → tiaw in GR Tonal Spelling; 4th tones are always marked at the end of a syllable: the tone mark is blended with the spelling]For almost 1900 years (since the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty), the 反切 fǎnqiè / faanchieh system has been used to indicate the pronunciation of Chinese characters.Each Chinese syllable is split into two parts: 聲母 shēngmǔ/shengmuu “the initial” (the single consonant, if any, at the beginning of a syllable) and 韻母yùnmǔ/yunnmuu “the final” (the rest of the syllable, including the tone). Bopomofo modifies this tradition by using 2-4 symbols to represent each syllable.First tone 張 (a common surname) is marked in Bopomofo with only 2 symbols, ㄓ+ㄤ (first tone is not explicitly marked).GR Tonal Spelling, Bopomofo’s younger brother, is similarly economical. Only four letters are needed for 張: j+ang (just like in the faanchieh system, ang includes the first tone).Fourth tone 賬 (account) is marked in Bopomofo with three symbols, ㄓ+ㄤ+ˋ, and GR Tonal Spelling still only requires four letters: j+anq (again, just like in the faanchieh system, anq includes the fourth tone).Hanyu Pinyin follows the all or nothing European approach of either ignoring all tones or marking all of them with tiny optional diacritics not found on ASCII keyboards. Pinyin thus uses 6 symbols for 1st tone 張 z+h+a+ˉ+n+g (a+ˉ are combined) and six symbols for 4th tone 賬 z+h+a+ˋ+n+g (a+ˋ are combined)Hanyu Pinyin is a system better suited to native speakers who are intimately familiar with the Mandarin phonological system.Thus, in Hanyu Pinyin the letters “i” and “u” have multiple pronunciations:(1) When “i” is preceded by z, c, or s, it is automatically pronounced as an unusual (for European ears) apical vowel /ɿ/, a mosquito-like buzzing sound.(2) When “i” is preceded by zh, ch or sh, it is pronounced as a similar-sounding /ʅ/.(3) When “i” is preceded by any other consonant and not followed by any other vowel letter, it is pronounced as a very different-sounding “normal” vowel /i/.(4) When “i” is preceded by any other consonant and followed by any other vowel letter, it is pronounced as a semi-vowel /j/.(5) When “i” is preceded by “u”, it is pronounced as /ej/ (not /ui/), as in 對 dui “correct”Hanyu Pinyin’s “u” follows similar rules.(1) When “u” is preceded by z, c, or s, it is pronounced as /u/.(2) When “u” is preceded by zh, ch or sh and not followed by any other vowel letter, it is pronounced as /u/.(3) When “u” is preceded by zh, ch or sh and followed by any other vowel letter, it is pronounced as a semi-vowel /w/.(4) When “u” is preceded by j, q, x, but not followed by any other vowel letter, “u” is pronounced as a front rounded semivowel /y/.(5) When “u” is preceded by j, q, x, but followed by any other vowel letter, it is pronounced as a semi-vowel /ɥ/ (palatal approximant)(6) When “u” is preceded by “i”, it is pronounced as /jow/, as in 休 xiu “to rest”, pronounced /ɕjow/, not /ziu/.Despite this hidden complexity, many foreigners who cut their teeth on Hanyu Pinyin swear by it and insist that it is much easier and more “reasonable” than GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu Romatzyh)’s traditional 反切 based approach, with its three basic rules.Hanyu Pinyin economizes on symbols by assuming that its users are native speakers who can figure out what sounds right (“i” and “u” rules) automatically. Foreign beginners and casual readers (people who only occasionally need to pronounce Chinese words) have a very difficult time.GR combines Bopomofo’s traditional Chinese 反切 analysis with an ingenious spelling system that is mnemonically-based (letters with shapes that resemble tone contours are used to spell tones) and much more foreigner-friendly than Hanyu Pinyin (even foreigners who have never learned any Chinese at all can usually make a passable guess).Basically, whatever looks different in Gwoyeu Romatzyh sounds different to Chinese ears, and whatever sounds different looks different, including the four tones of Mandarin Chinese.GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu Romatzyh) is widely used for spelling the names of well-educated people in Taiwan (doctors, lawyers, professors etc.).In Hanyu Pinyin, the following four names (Shy, Shyr, Shyy and Shyh) are blended together. Millions of people are forced to share one artificial giant surname (Shī + Shí + Shǐ + Shì → Shi) created for administrative convenience when producing foreigner-readable documents. Typing tone diacritics is a hassle: let Mr. Chabuduo handle everything.Professors, doctors etc. who use GR Tonal Spelling (painstakingly verified characters and professional details)[1st tone surname 施 SHy in GR Tonal Spelling] [Shī][2nd tone surname 石 SHyr in GR Tonal Spelling] [Shí][3rd tone surname 史 SHyy in GR Tonal Spelling] [Shǐ][4th tone surname 釋 SHyh in GR Tonal Spelling] [釋 is a surname adopted by Buddhists who give up their worldly property, including their original surnames] [Shì]A real-life example of potential confusion:(1) The PRC Ambassador to the German Federal Republic is 史明德 (spelled Shǐ Míngdé in “official” Pinyin).(2) Taiwan’s most famous political activist is 施明德 (spelled Shī Míngdé in “official” Pinyin).Imagine the confusion and embarrassment that would result if the PRC ambassador (Shi Mingde in “Street” Pinyin) was erroneously refused entry to a country that had banned the Taiwan activist (they seem to have exactly the same name)!Such problems could be easily eliminated if Chinese names were written using GR Tonal Spelling. 史明德, the ambassador, would be spelled Shyy Mingder and 施明德, the political activist, would be spelled Shy Mingder. The 1928 official spelling prevented such unfortunate misunderstandings.In Taiwan, even people with less common names use GR Tonal Spelling:[Surnames Jin 金 and Jinn 靳 (GR Tonal Spelling, Gwoyeu Romatzyh)]Surnames Bau 包 and Baw 鮑1. Professor Bau Da-Tian 包大靝 Institute of Biomedical Sciences, China Medical University2. Dr. Bau Tzong-ho 包宗和Professor of Department of Political Science, National Taiwan University監察院 - 人權主題網 ─ Members1. Aser Baw 鮑美瑟Animal Behavior Resource AssociationABRA國際認證訓練師資歷:2014 第二屆亞洲訓練師行為治療師培訓取得ABRA國際認證 LE 資格2. Wayne Baw 鮑維芳Wayne Baw 鮑維芳 (@waynebaw) Spencer Baw鮑穎 Theft And Other Serious Problems Caused By Spelling ConfusionOutside of China, Hanyu Pinyin’s toneless version can lead to or facilitate:1) Mistaken Identity Arrests2) Identity Theft3) Credit Card Fraud4) Medical ErrorAll of these problems can cause financial pain or have life-changing consequences, such as job loss, imprisonment or even worse.1) Mistaken Identity ArrestsA policeman conducting a routine traffic stop may wind up arresting the driver. Why?For one thing, suspect descriptions on warrants can apply to many people: “A black-haired, thin Chinese man in his 20s”. Having a non-distinctive (no tones indicated), Pinyin-only name that is identical to the one on a warrant certainly wouldn’t help.[this subsection was upgraded from my reply to a comment by Ni Ming]:Taiwanese police have an excellent reputation for tracking down criminals and cracking difficult cases. I'm sure the mainland police are equally intelligent and professionally dedicated. Unfortunately, such praise is hard to apply to their American militarized counterparts, who have a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later.Even small town police departments use SWAT teams and armored personnel carriers to handle routine, non-violent cases (such as seizing a child with a fever late at night to take it to see a doctor). They use battering rams to smash down doors, shoot family dogs (even a chihuahua has been viewed as a “threat”) and leave extensive trauma in their wake, especially when they barge in on completely innocent people.If you Google “cops” + “wrong house”, or “cops” + “shoot dog”, you will get a flavor. I very much doubt American cops will stand patiently while listening to an explanation of the subtle tonal difference between three different Chinese surnames who are forced to share one single toneless spelling.Sara Angell's answer to Have you ever read something about yourself in your own medical notes that shocked you?Real people with false homonym namesForeigners outside of China have no way of knowing that 古真福, 顧振福, 辜振甫, 辜振富 are four different people. If they have PRC-issued ID documents, all four seem to have exactly the same name: Gu Zhenfu.Hanyu Pinyin: Gu Zhenfu ← Gǔ Zhēnfú, Gù Zhènfú, Gū Zhènfǔ, Gū ZhènfùThese are all real people:"古真福" - Google Search"顧振福" - Google Search"辜振甫" - Google Search辜振富 (Facebook)GR Tonal Spelling (different people, different names): Guu Jenfwu, Guh Jennfwu, Gu Jennfuu, GU JennfuhIf any one of these people commits a crime (such as ignoring a pile of unpaid parking tickets), the other three could mistakenly be arrested by a policeman whose warrant only says “Gu Zhenfu: wanted for being a scofflaw”.American police don’t fool around. Strictly following the law and making arrests improves their chances of promotion. What’s not to like?法律就是法律,美國警察不講人情.These supposed scofflaws will be thrown in jail, and they will wait for a judge to (hopefully) sort out the mess. How many innocent Chinese people have suffered because of an incomplete romanization that doesn’t work properly outside of China?1. Why Mistaken Identity Arrests Happen2. Can You Be Arrested with a Warrant for Someone Else? | WK LawBeing arrested, even if later proven to be a mistake, can have financial (expensive lawyers) and social consequences (job loss, shunning, shaming of one’s children), and there is sometimes nothing one can do.3. Man jailed based on mistaken identity can't sue, court rules***Examples of Mistaken Arrests Due to Having the Same Name1. Man With Accused Criminal's Name Battles Mistaken Identity2. Man Sues Police Over Mistaken Identity Arrest | Hartford Criminal Defense Attorney3. Woman held in case of mistaken identity to seek compensation [New Zealand]4. Innocent man arrested, jailed twice because of name5. This Woman Lost Kids and Job After Being Mistaken for Drug Trafficking Suspect with Same Name6. Mistaken identity leads to physical arrest of Victorville man at his front door7. Mistaken identity of same-name men causes wrong arrest by Edmond police When the Only Crime is a Common Name...9. Grandmother Arrested, Spends 5 Days in Jail.....Whoops, Wrong Person.2) Identity Theft3) Credit Card FraudIdentity theft is a serious problem that is often connected with credit card fraud. Because the US does not have a national ID card, other types of ID are used, some of which are easily forged.A case in point is signatures. Because they are not intimately familiar with Latin alphabet handwriting, many Chinese rely on a very simple foreign signature that is easily copied (to combat this problem in my university language classes, I often included instruction in cursive handwriting).Handwriting University Forgery Proof[Unhappy Consequences of Using Toneless Pinyin On Foreign Documents]A. Report: Medical Identity Theft – The Information Crime that Can Kill YouDefinition: “when someone uses an individual's identifying information, such as their health insurance information or social security number, without the individual's knowledge or permission, to obtain medical services or goods, or to obtain money by falsifying claims for medical services and falsifying medical records to support those claims.”Medical Identity theft can have all sorts of cserious consequences, including:1. Financial losses (you may be required to pay for someone elese’s expensive medical care),2. Harm from false entries in your medical record (such as being given the wrong type of blood)3. Insurance caps reached (Someone may have used up all of your coverage; any further treatment may be prohibitively expensive)Victims of medical identity theft find out the truth in many unexpected ways:1. collection notices (a collection agency insists that you have to pay a penalty for unpaid bills that have nothing to do with you)2. Notification by law enforcement, an insurance company, or a health care provider that you have a problem3. Your insurance company tells you that benefits have run out, or a “lifetime cap” has been reached (you have supposedly used up all of the benefits provided by your medical insurance)Report: Medical Identity Theft - The Information Crime that Can Kill YouB. Exploring Medical Identity TheftDesla Mancilla, MPA, RHIA, principal investigator and Jackie Moczygemba, MBA, RHIA, CCS, secondary investigator, associate professorPerspect Health Inf Manag. 2009; 6(Fall): 1e. || PMCID: PMC2804460 || PMID: 20169017Exploring Medical Identity TheftC. Medical Identity Theft in the Emergency Department: Awareness is CrucialMichelino Mancini, DOWest J Emerg Med. 2014 Nov; 15(7): 899–901. || doi: 10.5811/westjem.2014.8.22438 || PMCID: PMC4251251 || PMID: 25493150“According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), medical identity theft accounted for 3% of identity theft crimes, or 249,000 of the estimated 8.3 million people who had their identities stolen in 2005. More recently, the Ponemon Institute calculated that there were 1.84 million victims of medical identity theft in 2013.”Medical Identity Theft in the Emergency Department: Awareness is CrucialImage Credits (Public Domain images)Digital Camera, Happy Tooth images by Clker-Free-Vector-Images (Clker-Free-Vector-Images | Pixabay)Bubbleman images by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay (3dman_eu | Pixabay)Blender image: OpenClipart-Vectors from PixabayShi Mingde (the bigshot): CC BY-SA Raimond SpekkingShi Mingde (the Taiwanese activist): Public Domain image

Is it a bad idea to put a ligature in a child’s name (i.e., Æmilia instead of Aemilia or just Emilia)?

You can’t put a ligature in a name, because ligatures are a stylistic choice where two letters are replaced with a single glyph that represents both. The name would feature regular letters, and it is up to the person typesetting the name (on a birthday card let’s say) to activate ligatures or not.What you are referring to is a grapheme, which is the smallest unit of a writing system of any given language, and can consist of two or more characters. Æ/æ used to be a ligature of ‘ae’, however, but has been promoted to the status of a proper letter in some languages, including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese.Pedantry aside, I think there is no harm in naming your child ‘Aemilia’, but naming your child ‘Æmilia’ may result in unexpected frustration, particularly if you travel abroad.PronunciationWhether the name is ‘Æmilia’ or ‘Aemilia’, I think people are inclined to pronounce it correctly, and if they don’t, it will likely not be on account of the grapheme ‘æ’, but on account of the letter combination (ae) itself.Similarly, whether you spell ‘encyclopedia’, ‘encyclopaedia’, or the obsolete ‘encyclopædia’, the pronunciation remains the same. However, the pronunciations of ‘paedophile’ and ‘pedophile’ do differ. This is to illustrate that it might be the digraph ‘ae’ that will bring about confusion, rather than the use of a grapheme.People potentially mispronouncing your child’s name is not a major issue, I think, and when it comes to ‘Æmilia’ I don’t suspect there is a big tendency for it to get mispronounced. If it does, that is an issue which is easy to correct.AlphabetizationThis is probably a very minor concern, but it is worth mentioning. When it comes to alphabetization of the first name, on many—if not most—computers, ‘Æ’ comes after ‘A’, and so even though the grapheme denotes ‘ae’, when alphabetically ordered the name would come in between ‘Az’ and ‘Ba’. No reason to call the emergency number, but do keep in mind that ‘Æ’ and ‘Ae’ are not quite the same. It also emphasizes the fact that ‘Æ’ is indeed a letter, and not a ligatured ‘ae’.Philip Newton:There are many ways to sort or collate things, and the order will depend on the collation you use.If your computer is set up for Danish, then Æ will probably come not between Az and Ba but after Zz and before Øa.If the system just uses Unicode code points for collation (“ASCIIbetical order” extended for Unicode), then Æ will come after Å but before Ç, and all of those will be after Z or z or ~.And so on.So that’s yet another happy fun thing: you never know where you’ll end up in a sorted list, because there isn’t one globally-accepted unique sorting order for symbols.(Speaking of Slovak, I once attended an Esperanto meetup in Slovakia with attendees from all over the Europe and some from evern further afield. In the list of participants who had agreed to have their name published afterwards, all the Christians were sorted after the Hugos — makes perfect sense for a Slovak but I think a German or a Frenchman would not think to look for ‘Ch’ after ‘H’!)Missing lettersNow we get to the real issue with naming your child Æmilia, or using other unconventional letters. ‘Æ’ may be supported by most professional fonts in the West, but if you go to Asia, for example, you may run into problems with your passport, because their register does not include the letter. I can’t find the source, but I read an article that detailed the horrors this person went through because their parents decided to give the person a name starting with an unconventional letter.In In the Name Of the Father (or the troubles with L-caron), graphic- and typeface designer Peter Biľak details his frustrations with his own name in a similar situation:A real-life situation that forced a type designer to evaluate his profession. One small typographic detail (an incorrect version of the diacritic over the letter L) caused troubles with the authorities. With a happy end.ʻIs it all worth it in the end?!ʼ might be the type designerʼs lament in a moment of weakness. As a typeface designer I spend countless hours designing first the basic Latin alphabet, then the extended Latin alphabet (to support languages ranging from Icelandic to Maltese), then mathematical symbols, currency symbols, diacritics, punctuation, Cyrillic characters, Greek characters… The tiniest details of design and spacing have to be checked. With more than 2000 characters per font, it can be a tedious task to make sure that all possible letter combinations look as they should. I could easily spend a week adjusting the spacing of the characters needed to write polytonic Greek. But only a handful of people use polytonic Greek, the basically obsolete system replaced by modern Greek. What else could be accomplished in the time that I spend adjusting characters that someone, somewhere might use sometime? How many lives could be saved? How many trees planted? How many houses rebuilt? What am I doing here? Does it make any sense?Although I usually manage to convince myself that what I do is tremendously important (ʻvisualizing the languageʼ, as I grandiosely call it), there are those weak moments when I am not sure. (After all, how many more fonts does the world really need?) Especially now: our daughter Elisa was born less than a week ago, scrambling all our routines, shuffling all our priorities. How can I compare spending an hour adjusting the spacing of a font to spending an hour soothing my baby daughter?I havenʼt touched a bezier curve for a week now, being a good father. And one of my fatherly duties is to stop by the city hall to request the birth certificate. Armed with all the necessary paperwork, I enter the monumental building of The Hague municipal office. After a brief wait, I get to explain to a charming, efficient lady that I have come to register our newborn.ʻLovely. Congratulations,ʼ she says.I present my ID, my wifeʼs ID and the papers from the hospital. Everything is fine, everything is in order, everyone is smiling, until suddenly she says, ʻAnd what is your name?ʼ The methodical Dutch civil servant canʼt find my name in the system.ʻHow do you spell that again?ʼAs a descendant of the Slavic settlers of the Danube river basin, I have a surname with an accent: Biľak. The name has given me some trouble because of the accent over the L. When I first arrived in the Netherlands, another efficient public servant in his best effort to record my name wrote: Bilʼ ak. ʻPretty close,ʼ I thought at the time. Charming even, how hard they try. Except that when I receive official mail, their software, programmed to capitalize all proper nouns, addresses it to P. Bilʼ Ak, which probably makes my neighbors wonder what African tribe I come from.After ten minutes of fruitless searching in the database for all possible variations of my last name, there are now four determined bureaucrats coming up with ideas. ʻTry searching by first name.ʼ There are over 4000 Peters living in The Hague. ʻTry his birth date.ʼ 253 people born on the same day.After what seems like an eternity of searching, they finally find my records. But instead of relief, I feel concern: will Elisa have to go through this every time? I try to take action.ʻLook, my name is not right in the database. It is not Bilʼ ak, it is Biľak.ʼ The gathering of Dutch civil servants gives me a collective perplexed look.ʻBut thatʼs just what we have, donʼt you see.ʼ I try to remain calm and polite.ʻWell, no it isnʼt.ʼ I even have a convincing argument. ʻMove the cursor one letter at a time. It should be 5 characters: B-i-ľ-a-k, see, not B-i-l-apostrophe-space-a-k, as it is now.ʼʻThe trouble is,ʼ I say in the voice I use in my typography lectures, ʻthat instead of the small letter L with a caron, you used L and an apostrophe. L-caron is a character used only in the Slovak language, so perhaps your computer doesnʼt have access to it.ʼʻNo, thatʼs impossible, we recognize all accents – look.ʼ The assembly of clerks shows off, scrolling through a collection of accented characters. I scan through them, dismissing Latvian L with a cedilla, Polish L with a stroke, Catalan L with a mid dot, another few Lʼs whose uses I donʼt know.Finally I see it. ʻL-caron, there it is!ʼ I exclaim.ʻThatʼs not it, that looks completely different.ʼIndeed, the L-caron that I am pointing to has a different form of caron, something like an inverted circumflex, a little upside-down roof. ʻIt looks different because of the font you use, but it is the right character,ʼ I insist.ʻNo, no, thatʼs a different letter. This is the right one,ʼ says one of the clerks, pointing at L-acute, another letter used in Slovak.I begin to realise that this is going to be difficult. Iʼve lectured on typography to students, to professors, to designers, but never to skeptical city hall employees. The only point of reference they have is my original birth certificate, and I have to agree that the L-acute looks closest to it.I start to explain that L-caron is a palatalized consonant unique to the Slovak language, that it is almost always followed by a vowel, that Jan Hus the Czech religious reformer is credited with the reforms of Czech orthography and first introduced diacritical marks sometime in the 14th century. That Anton Bernolák codified the Slovak language standards in his 1787 Dissertatio philologico-critica de litteris Slavorum and introduced the L-caron.The clerks are not impressed.ʻThis is a different letter, not your L-caron.ʼI start to lose patience.ʻItʼs your font which is wrong. What is it? Oh, I see, itʼs Arial. Well, Arial Unicode is simply wrong. The problem is in the font.ʼ I start to sketch the differences between the correct and incorrect version on the back of an official document. ʻTwo different representations, but the same phonetic value. Both versions are acceptable, but THIS ONE,ʼ I say with dramatic emphasis, ʻis the general standard in Slovak orthography.ʼThe clerks are dismissive, unwilling to negotiate the value of their system font. I am fighting an uphill battle. In the depths of my soul I begin to wonder: how many fonts have I designed? Many. Too many. But Iʼd be willing to change them all to include the incorrect version of the L-caron to save Elisa future troubles.ʻWe can call the Slovak embassy, and they will prove that this is the correct character.ʼ I suggest.ʻNo, that is not legally acceptable.ʼʻSo what would you need in order to accept the correct spelling of the name?ʼʻWe would need your birth certificate with this version of L,ʼ the clerk says, pointing to the incorrect L-caron.I was running out of options. Getting a new birth certificate with the wrong L-caron would be as difficult as changing the font in The Hagueʼs municipal computers. Suddenly I had an idea. On the table was a sample template of the birth certificate, and when I looked closely, I saw that it used Times New Roman.ʻCan we try something? Just a test, nothing binding,ʼ I say.I receive a hesitant approval.ʻTry using this incorrect L-caron and print the birth certificate. I think it will look fine when you print it.ʼʻNo it wonʼt,ʼ the clerks say, ʻit will be just the same.ʼʻPlease, just try it.ʼI am taking a risk, counting on the fact that if the print is really made in Times New Roman, it is highly unlikely that the L-caron is incorrect in that font as well. The clerks enter the name. The ancient printer whines and clacks, then stops. Dramatic silence. I feel like I am performing the ultimate magic trick. The printer ejects the paper and five clerks huddle around it, scrutinizing it carefully. I can hardly breathe. The clerks shake their heads.ʻThis is really strange. It looks different.ʼThe printed version has the correct L-caron. The municipal computers display in Arial Unicode, but they print in Times New Roman, and the birth certificate looks just fine. I feel the thrill of victory and the clerks start to realize that the problem is indeed in the font. Ten minutes later I am holding the correctly spelled certificate in my hands, holding it as tightly as I hold Elisa when she cries.Tiny details in typography seem to make sense again.All in all, I think you can save your child a lot of frustration by using letters that are readily accessible in most languages.

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