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wushijiao

Characters: an advantage

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wushijiao

Thinking about the post "characters are objectively harder", made me think about other character realated issues. While I do agree that characters, by their very complicated nature, are inherently hard to learn, I think they have advantages.

One of the main advantages, I would argue, is speed reading. Recent studies have shown that as long as the first letter of a word is spelled corectly, the eye can can read the word by recognizing its shape. Thus: yuo dot'n hvae too muhc truoble readign thsi.

By the same logic, one would assume that the eye could recognize characters and words (mainly two characters put together) faster than their English equivalents.

Does anybody know of studies that prove this? Can anybody who is equally fluent in Chinese and English (or some other European language) testify to this?

I consider myself to be a damn fast reader in English, for example, I can read a full page news article in a minute or a 300-page book in a day or two. Yet I'm amazed at how fast my Chinese girlfriend can read. She can blow through a pulp novel (like 王朔 or something)in a few hours.

Thoughts?

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sm_sung

I think Chinese might be faster to read because in one eye sweep more information can be absorbed(Chinese takes up less space on paper than English). Thus, less eye strain and fatique.

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sunyata

300 page book in a day or two is fast? :roll: maybe if it's astrophysics :mrgreen:

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ala

There has been a study that simplified characters are faster to read than traditional.

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skylee

Not necessarily. It really depends on which script one is used to.

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sm_sung
There has been a study that simplified characters are faster to read than traditional.

Interesting. Do you know where I can get more information about the study?

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pazu
There has been a study that simplified characters are faster to read than traditional.

It's true for mainland Chinese, of course. :wink:

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Guest Yau
They need a study? I think it's common sense that simplified is faster to read than the traditional...

obviously the "fact" to the one who never have chance to get educated with tradtional chinese.

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高可文

I was taught to read traditional characters and I always read simplified texts slower.

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dmoser

wushijiao wrote:

I consider myself to be a damn fast reader in English, for example, I can read a full page news article in a minute or a 300-page book in a day or two. Yet I'm amazed at how fast my Chinese girlfriend can read. She can blow through a pulp novel (like 王朔 or something)in a few hours.

I've heard this rumor for many years. And I, like you, have this impression that Chinese can zoom through novels much quicker than we English readers can. I used to think that this might be because English involves some subvocalization (subconsciously sounding out the words), whereas Chinese characters can directly communicate semantics, thus avoiding the sound stage. (I.e., English is script-sound-meaning, whereas Chinese can be just script-meaning.) But later on I found that psycholinguistic research does NOT bear this out. Chinese also go through a sound stage, as well. So I don't know if it's true or not. But I still have the impression that Chinese can scan stuff quicker than we can.

I'm surprised no one has done scientific studies on this.

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39degN
I consider myself to be a damn fast reader in English, for example, I can read a full page news article in a minute or a 300-page book in a day or two. Yet I'm amazed at how fast my Chinese girlfriend can read. She can blow through a pulp novel (like 王朔 or something)in a few hours.

not sure if the character reading will faster than english, but at least it will much faster than pinyin reading, as obviously it needs more attention to distinguish bunch of freaks with almost same like damn faces.

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Quest
But I still have the impression that Chinese can scan stuff quicker than we can.

I think that's probably because of word length.

我想是跟中文字词长度有关。

Try to scan these two lines.

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geek_frappa

also, at a certain point, you are reading BLOCKS of characters, instead of the individual characters.... at least that's how i do it now...

so, in quest's good example, we have

我想是跟中文字词长度有关

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ala

I read English and Chinese about the same. Word spacing in English helps save some time, while Chinese is more compact and its easier to take in text in one glance. Parsing as in what geek_frappa said above only works well with basic and familiar text.

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Alveranter

There's no reason to try to read as fast as possible.. read in a tempo that suits you, rather than beating some sort of record.. the olympics haven't started yet..

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Guest Yau
There's no reason to try to read as fast as possible.. read in a tempo that suits you, rather than beating some sort of record.. the olympics haven't started yet..

閱讀太慢的含意, 就是你先要在腦海把那些符號, 經過再三演繹, 才可以明白它的意思. 這已不是快和慢的問題.

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benotnobody

I do actually doubt whether this is true. Surely it would be in some situations, but a trained "speed reader" from either language background would take about the same time to comprehend what they are reading.

My second point is that English speed readers (or myself at least) rarely observe the spelling of a word; you can just recognise the word by its appearance and comprehend the meaning. I'm sure most of you have encountered an English word which you knew the meaning and spelling of, but pronounced it incorrectly.

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pazu

I saw a video demonstrating how fast a guy (American) can read, he scanned through a book about some new ways on maths, he finished the whole book in 1 minute (^^), then the host asked him, "so do you really understand the whole book?"

"Yes!" the guy said confidently.

"So can you use the new way of calculations in the book to answer my question?" The host challenged him.

"Sure, I'm readY!" THe guy shouted!

"125 x 120 =? "

"15000!!!"

It's like a joke, but I did see it from a video.................... the guy was selling his book of speed reading.

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jz87

This may not have anything to do with the written language but Chinese is a mono-syllabic language, so even if there's sub-vocalization it'd be a considerably faster process than sub-vocalizing a poly-syllabic language like English. What would be a really meaningful study is to compare a phonetic/poly-syllabic language like English, a poly-syllabic/character based language like Japanese, and a mon-syllabic/character based language like Chinese.

It's a fact that reading in pinyin for Chinese and pure kana in Japanese is considerably slower than reading character based documents. So in addition to vocalization the shape of the word also aid in comprehension. As someone who read fairly fast myself, I think part of what the brain does is that it anticipate words, like based on context it will anticipate what words will likely come next and actual reading is partially just verification. Reading might slow down a bit if you mispredict. There is a lot of filler that's built into modern language, modern Chinese is very fluffy compared to literary Chinese. I doubt someone can just scan through literary Chinese and maintain comprehension. Can you imagine speed-reading through Dao de Jing or The Art of War (original version). Also classical poems are hard to scan through, you actually have to read every word. Simply because they're written so concisely that it's almost impossible to predict what will come next.

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