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zozzen

The Revival of Traditional Characters is Coming?

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Gharial

(Edit: I've only skimmed back through the whole thread, so I guess I'm replying primarily to your post, Hofmann!:)).

From the perspective of the foreign learner (who was never going to be part of some idealistic broad-ranging consensus on which characters to use), the characters whether simplified or traditional will surely ultimately seem like arbitrary chicken-scratchings regardless (just like the very sounds of Chinese will be a whole new set of apparently arbitrary sound-meaning pairings also), even after the foreign learner has been studying them a while and begun to detect certain regularities.

And even if the decisions by the Chinese themselves regarding which forms were going to be promulgated were made by a wider group of people, they'd still all need to be literate (indeed, probably still be from that largely "scribal" class of literary movers and shakers), and would therefore have needed to learn simplified or traditional (or both) in order to appear to have much of an opinion, so it would be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation - "Which characters do you prefer, Mr Wang, educated and literate as you are?".

Doubtless the ordinary person on the street, although he or she might have an opinion or two about certain characters (shibboleths of a sort?), probably just gets on (and wants to get on!) with simply using whatever forms will get the job of written communication done and dusted pronto in their neck of the woods, and probably doesn't really want that de facto standard to be messed about with too much (at least, not in their lifetime).

Then, there is the "problem" of the "dialects", who, if they were canvassed for their opinions, might perhaps opt to move (break) away from whatever national written standard than remain closer to and more or less completely part of (and rather subsumed by) it.

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aristotle1990

So I read in this 1991 book:

Simplified characters are in decline especially in Fujian and Guang­dong, where Taiwan and Hong Kong tourists and investors have become economically important. Private printers are now free to advertise name cards printed in complex characters.

I mean, I'm sure they're not "in decline," but can anyone confirm that traditional characters are used more in Fujian and Guangdong?

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DespikableMi

Practical: Simplified Characters are easier to learn, write, and read. On top of that, they have already became the norm in mainland.

Economically: Switching back to Traditional Characters will mean reprinting all official documents and signs or public content in simplified.

Literacy: Mass reeducate in Traditional Characters requires time and money. Also, converting to Traditional Characters mean sacrificing millions of printed and digital content already in Simplified Characters.

Stability: All changes come with instability but PRC values stability highly.

Politically: Just no reason to switch back to Traditional Characters to "unify" with Taiwan.

Support: Radical reform always loses support. Ordinary people just want to get on with their lives so any large scale of support in China is not very possible.

By the way, there have been rumors about PRC abolishing simplified for traditional ever since the introduction of Simplified Characters Also, the situation in China is different from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Taiwan and Hong Kong both started with better education systems and even better communications. While in China not only did they had a bad start but they also have to deal with more population and bigger area.

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LA Guy

My 2 cents. Not knowing a lick of how to read either.

Why not provide both ? :)

Since, we live in the tech age, it is possible to have Chinese translation applications that:

Mouseover a word in Traditional Mode will show the equivalent Simplified character and vice versa.

Translate complete documents / phrases from / to Trad / Simplified.

Provide the option to display in either Trad / Simplified.

Smartphone translation applications.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" - who said that ?

A quick research shows that a translation table has been developed but no standard yet :

The OpenVanilla project, an open source input method project, maintains a Chinese character conversion table. It was used in the input method software but I think it could also be used for other purposes. It is available at:

https://github.com/lukhnos/openvanilla-oranje/blob/master/Modules/OVOFHanConvert/VXHCSC2TCTable.c

So, since each Chinese character would have a unicode 2 character representation that can be converted between Trad/Simpl as the content is being read online.

So, in the interest of political correctness, then Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese Universities could collaborate on a "approved translation table" that could be integrated into all Chinese display software.

or the Enterprising Software engineer can do it first and sell it.

The research part would be the "historical and cultural explanation of each character" for both traditional / simplified.

The application would provide additional feature to show this information on each character.

Thus, both languages are supported moving forward.

New words/characters from the modern tech age can also be explained as they didn't exist in traditional Chinese texts.

Thanks, LA Guy

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Glenn

I remember renzhe had a post that covered the trouble involved with automatic conversions really well, but I'd just be happy (for now) with something that would covert 特征 to 特徵. For some reason I've never seen that one work out that I can remember.

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jbradfor

@Glenn, I think what LA Guy is proposing is to have two unicode characters in the document per Chinese character, so there's not really a conversion going on. I think this is what wikipedia is trying to do, although of course it is a long and error-prone process.

Not sure, however, how to deal with e.g. differences between Taiwan and Hong Kong traditional, although they are few. Are there differences between mainland and Singapore simplified?

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skylee

Do a conversion, and you must check through the whole document to correct the errors. I did it once using the conversion provided by MS Word. Luckily that was only an eight-page document. And the programme was so "intelligent" it also changed some of the words without telling me e.g. 幼儿园 -> 幼稚園 .

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renzhe

Think of automatic conversion the same way as you think of automated language translation. It's OK if you really have to get the main idea in a hurry, it's useful, but it's not perfect and never will be.

The main reason for this is that the conversion is not unique in either direction (simp->trad or trad-simp), and that you need to understand the context in order to convert correctly, which lands you in the language translation territory. But yeah, some tools are quite intelligent nowadays.

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anonymoose
Think of automatic conversion the same way as you think of automated language translation. It's OK if you really have to get the main idea in a hurry, it's useful, but it's not perfect and never will be.

I think you're exagerating the deficiency somewhat. Automatic conversion of characters is not perfect, but is 100% understandable, the grammar and sentence construction is still intact, and you can get much more from it than just "the main idea in a hurry".

I used to use NJStar which would automatically convert traditional to simplified for me. My Chinese is far from perfect, but I never had any more difficulties understanding anything that had been converted beyond what I encounter with original simplified sources.

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renzhe
I think you're exagerating the deficiency somewhat.

Probably. It is obviously far better than the results of automated language translation -- it is the same language after all.

But like skylee says, you can't use it for anything official, so I don't see any automated system as a "solution" to the multiple-standard "problem".

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skylee

No, you can't use an automatically-converted document for official purposes without checking it. Of course it is understandable, but typos/errors like 髮 becoming 發 are just not acceptable in serious work.

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Ted C.

I think the failure of the "second round simplifications" proves that it's become hard to get the Chinese population to change how they write. It was easier to change the written language back when literacy rates were lower.

I think simplified characters are here for good in mainland China. I can imagine a few traditional characters gradually coming back into vogue through ad hoc usage. But I wouldn't ever expect to see a sudden switch back, no matter how much they try to prepare for it.

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JonBI

There are so many ignorant idiots who talk as if they are somehow some authority because they read a few sentences out of a stupid book that told them they were special.

1st point. Simplified characters do have a long history. However, the simplifications to the standard set under the PRC does not adhere a) to the traditional simplifcations, or b) to the scale and usage. Though shorthands were used, and sometimes words originated in their current simplified form, the vast majority of characters have a far longer history in their traditional form than in their simplified. Anybody who tells you that the simplified characters have a longer more rich history is an ignoramous. Just look at all the major works of caligraphy ever done, and tell me which ones adhere to the PRC standardizations. Even the famous simplified ones often adhere to their own rules of simplification (for instance, the works of 康有为).

Second point. Anybody who studies Chinese literature, archeology, art history, calligraphy, or linguistics at a high level will need to learn how to interpret and read Chinese characters. some books are printed in simplified, granted, but many are not, and many old editions, and primary resources are not simplified. There are still traditional character books published in mainland China, and that will not change, as for various reasons, simplified characters are harder to interpret.

When you do real work, you need the traditional, because you are doing work that involves interpretation - simplified, punctuated works are already interpreted.

If you do art history, you will need to learn how to identify certain things in their original, if you study caligraphy, you will need the traditional forms to both write and read works.

If you study areology or linguistics, it goes without saying that traditional characters are a necessity. You cannot read 说文解字, or even the 康熙字典 without knowledge of the original forms. Etymology cannot be traced on simplified characters, without tracing them first to traditional characters.

That being said, knowledge of writing traditional characters perhaps isn't a must. I personally write both, but it is a personal choice. Simplified characters work fine, and traditional characters work fine.

It's actually amazing how many bullys are on this thread. I doubt you guys would be so loud a) in person, and b) on a Chinese website.

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hackinger

JonBI 大人

did you read post #60?

Cheers

hackinger

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iangreen

Number of strokes is not the only factor for simplicity. Many arguments for why traditional is easier to learn and remember (and I agree).

When you learn to memorize by radicals (部首), not individual strokes, it's much easier to remember how to write characters, rather than random lines! This is in fact part of the basic design of the Chinese character system!

I feel that simplified forms are best for writing by hand, only.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_on_traditional_and_simplified_Chinese_characters

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yialanliu

Let's clarify the erroneous points:

China's priority isn't to help foreigners learn Chinese...

The students have no problem learning either traditional(as shown by students in Taiwan, Hong Kong) or simplified(as shown by students in mainland China).

So the learning thing is pretty moot. Both are learnable and I think it's actually pretty easy to learn and I have/had no problems learning Chinese.

Next, with regards to history. It's not that important. Why doesn't English revert back to Latin or something? English is considered vernacular and new during the middle ages. However, we don't say hey latin is older so lets revert. That's the thing about progress, you don't always stick with the oldest form. Thus, that's another moot point.

Memorizing Radicals works both ways for simplified and traditional. Radicals that are simplified typically are simplified the entire way through. So that means a complex radical has typically one standardized form. That means it's not any harder to learn.

Being required to know traditional by a handful of scholars, literati doesn't mean society needs to change. Just like people in the sciences need to know latin doesn't mean EVERYONE is required to know latin.

Traditional vs Simplified does not cause a barrier between China and Taiwan. Hong Kong is integrating just fine with China and if this was a problem then Hong Kong wouldn't have come back in 1997. The issues with Taiwan isn't rooted in language and let's not make it seem like it is.

Doing "real" work doesn't require a certain language. While it is no doubt helpful, it is only helpful if the work you are doing requires documents that cannot be translated and it doesn't not apply to a great majority of people. Academic discourse is in its nature supposed to be different, it's not supposed to carry over into mainstream usage. I do real work at work and I am sorry but at the import/export company I use simplified chinese and english and am fine. I don't understand how I am doing "fake" work.

The real debate should then stem on whether or not this will happen.

As the 教育局部长 said, he's not interested.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/edu/2008-03/15/content_7792926.htm

That means that it's not going to happen anytime soon.

From the Taiwanese perspective, there might be more hope for traditional moving to simplified but even that is a very slim chance.

As an aside, traditional should be able to convert easily into simplified. However, it does not work in reverse in part due to the factor that more than 1 traditional character might be simplified into 1 simplified character.

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