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Mike

Writing Chinese characters, but left-handed...

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Mike

My daughter has started learning Mandarin Chinese. She is left handed. Couple of questions:

(1) Ruling out the option of writing Chinese characters with her right hand, is it better for her to find her own stroke order, or will the traditional stroke order work for her?

(2) In China are children encouraged to write characters with their right hand?

If anyone has any tips or observations about left-handed writing, then we would be really interested to hear them.

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HashiriKata

I believe that in China children are encouraged to write characters with their right hand (Hardly a surprise!), but I don't think the stroke order needs to change because you happen to be left-handed. Actually, I can already see a lot problems if someone has to devise their own stroke order.

On a side note, I'm left-handed but was made to write with my right hand from a very young age and as a result, even now I'm still neither here nor there.

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Koneko

Re 1: Rules are made to be broken. I don't follow the right order even though I am right-handed.

Re 2: Definitely! But I want to be as ambidextrous as my Granny and my Aunt. My Granny writes with her right hand but uses her left hand for all other tasks; my Aunt is the other way round! :wink:

K.

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nipponman

To the OP: I'm left-handed also and I don't have any trouble with the stroke order. As I said in the other thread, I don't think stroke order is too important after you have the basic rules, so your child should be fine.

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character

I'm left-handed as well, and not only will the standard stroke order work for her, it's important to learn to write the characters that way:

1) Her written characters will look more like other's writing and not have strange differences introduced by writing the characters differently.

2) Handwriting recognition software relies in part on stroke order to determine which character is being written.

Keep in mind each character is written in a reasonably small space. The hand doesn't have to move across the paper as when writing antidisestablishmentarianism. :) I've never felt being left-handed was a disadvantage when learning to write characters.

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trevelyan

I'm left-handed and write with my left hand as well. Your daughter shouldn't have any problem.

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Mike

Thanks for all your comments. For some reason my daugher finds strokes like 竖弯钩 (shù wān gōu) difficult, with the bend and hook coming towards her. But she enjoys writing the characters!

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Jonny Wang

Mike,

You are right that with left hand writing, one difficulty is that "push" strokes become "pull" strokes and vice versa. But as with learning anything new, things always feel awkward at first. If she was right-handed, some other strokes would feel weird.

I third the notion that stroke order is important - it makes using stroke-recognition electronic dictionaries possible.

A related note about left-handed writing. There are three personal characteristics that Chinese seem to think guarantees that a person is highly intelligent:

1. Jewish heritage

2. Mixed race (the further the geographical difference the more intelligent)

3. Being left-handed

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shibo77

The only problems I can think of writing with the left hand are leaving a black smudge when your left hand moves across the paper (because Chinese sentences are written from the left to the right), and also your left hand might block your view of the left section of the character that you have written so you will loose some perspective on the symmetry of the character (because the stroke order goes from the left section to the right section). If this was Arabic or Hebrew then the handicap would be reversed.

-Shibo :mrgreen:

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Koneko
The only problems I can think of writing with the left hand are leaving a black smudge when your left hand moves across the paper (because Chinese sentences are written from the left to the right),

Well, not exactly true.

Lefties might find it easier to do Chinese calligraphy since it's written vertically from right to left traditionally. It can also be written horizontally from right to left. :wink:

K.

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Gulao

One of my classmates in high school wrote Chinese left handed, and didn't seem to have much trouble. From time to time she would ask if it were possible to fix a character's stroke order to make the character more natural for her, but for the most part it wasn't necessary.

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DoraYao

I am left-handed too and have no problem with strokes. :mrgreen:

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renzhe

I write left-handed too, and use the proper stroke order.

Since I'm close to ambidextrous (can write a with my right hand and the left-right preference is almost split down the middle with me, depending on the task at hand), I have considered learning to write Chinese characters right-handed, but it seemed too silly considering that I write everything else with my left hand.

The characters will probably look a bit different. Right-handed horizontal strokes tend to slope slightly upward, which is difficult to reproduce with the left hand, and that's one example. But it really doesn't play that much of a role, you can write well with the left hand too.

Perhaps one day, I'll try to write with my right hand too. It's quite funny, I can write the Latin alphabet with my right hand, it just looks a bit uglier and takes a bit longer, but I have no difficulty doing it -- though I have spent very little time practicing this. I can also take a left-handed guitar and play chords and scales although I have never practiced this either. I think that left-handed people find it easier to do things with both hands than right-handed people. Perhaps because so many things in our lives are designed for right-handed people, so we get ample practice.

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fireball9261

I am right-handed, and I always smudged my writings in the traditional ways (up and down, then right to left) when I was a kid. So I always wished to be left-handed.

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JimmySeal

I'm left handed and I started learning to write Asian characters about 8 years ago. It has never been a problem when writing with a pencil or pen, but I've found it all but impossible to make characters look good when using a brush or long-tipped pen. In those cases, the push vs. pull distinction really comes into play.

I started brush-calligraphy classes last February and I use my right hand exclusively for those. I just feel there's no other way.

I would suggest at least encouraging your daughter to try writing with her right hand every now and then. Right-handedness is a very useful skill in the 漢字文化圏.

I'm also in favor of using the correct stroke order, no matter which hand she's using to write.

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Hero Doug

It's a little off topic now, but in response to the many people who are saying don't worry about stroke order, I'm going to say the exact opposite, I'm joining the other's who say it's important.

I read an excellent summary on here (can't find who wrote) about stroke order.

Get a pen and paper, and write the letter a (lowercase).

From what we've been taught, we start at the top, round down and to the left to make the belly, and go up and down at the right to make the straight edge.

Write it again, but this time start at the top and make the straight edge first, then make the rounded belly last.

They'll both be legible, but the first one (that is done naturally) will look better.

After I bought a program to teach stroke order I saw noticeable improvement instantly.

For these reasons I'd avoid encouraging your daughter to invent her own stroke order.

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renzhe

I absolutely disagree with imposing a stroke order on the Latin characters.

First of all, it definitely depends on your handedness. Such "rules" for right-handed people result in difficult writing patterns for left-handed people, especially when writing fast.

Secondly, different places have different conventions. There are numerous ways to write Latin characters. The Romans didn't leave instructions on which stroke comes first, or in which direction it should go. I guarantee you that the "proper stroke order" some people teach in Germany is completely different than the one taught in the US or France, or even in a different school in a different city. They are all arbitrary. A character written in a different order looks different, it doesn't look WRONG.

Chinese characters are obviously different, for reasons such as brush calligraphy, stroke count and stroke-order dictionary lookup, etc.

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Hero Doug

The point of my post wasn't about writing Latin characters, it was about writing Chinese characters.

I used an 'a' because everyone here is reading and writing English, so everyone should be familier with the letter 'a'.

Secondly, I posted that to illustrate that if you write something in a different order then it's usually written in, then you may end up with something that looks different then it should. What it should look like, if what you say is true, is subjective. I was obvisouly writing that from my perspective.

But as far as I know, in China the children are taught how to write characters one of a few ways. So if you also learn how to write characters in one of those ways then chances are that Chinese people won't have as much trouble reading what you write because it fit's one of the standards.

And I'm saying the same thing holds true for Latin letters, or any other way of writing, the more you deviate from the standard the harder it is going to be to read what you write.

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dannydy

i'm also a leff-handed,it seemed wouldnt have much problem for me to writing the order of the chinese character stroke. But in fact, the earlier of writing character on the paper was from left side to right side.

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JokePro

1. Why would you rule out the option of writing with the right hand? If she intends to always use a pencil or ballpoint pen it might not matter, but if she wants to ever do calligraphy...using the right hand is almost essential. As someone else mentioned, switching hands changes a push stroke to a pull stroke, and that is just the beginning. You simply can't write hanzi correctly with the left hand. There ARE a handful of famous left-handed calligraphers, but they are the exception. When using a brush, a character written with the left hand will just not look right. Stroke order is also essential to writing a character correctly.

I am left handed, but I am learning to write with my right hand. It's tough at first, but with just little practice, her hanzi will look a lot better than they could ever look written with the left hand. I think you also shouldn't disregard the brain development that comes with learning to write with both hands. Writing with your unfavored hand is hard because the brain has not created the neuropathways required for writing. Developing these pathways by learning to write with your off hand creates a brain with more even development between the hemispheres. It also helps develop the pathways that allow for communication between the two hemispheres.

Seriously, your daughter should not miss out on the opportunity to enhance her brain development just because learning to write with her right hand is a bit challenging. Personally, I think everyone should learn to write with both hands for this reason alone.

2. Yes. Children in China are encouraged to write with their right hand, because you simply can't correctly write hanzi with the left. In China, left-handed people are considered to be generally more intelligent than right-handed people, so this is not a discrimination issue at all. It is simply a product of how the characters are written. I know a couple of people in China that are left-handed, and both of them write with their right hand. One of them is a teacher (and a calligrapher) and she teaches all of her students to write with their right hand.

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