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roddy

Learning to read handwriting

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realmayo

Ah, so a reasonable chunk of what the book teaches isn't actually practised by most Chinese people -- you'd never actually see it written down anywhere! Makes the book seem rather less attractive than I'd assumed.

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jbradfor
Do you know whether Chinese kids learn this cursive at school? Is it formally taught or do the kids just emulate the teachers' habits in the upper classes?

Asked my wife about this, and she said she doesn't recall explicitly being taught this form. So I guess it's just a combination of what is "natural", plus subconsciously following what everyone else does.

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imron
Ah, so a reasonable chunk of what the book teaches isn't actually practised by most Chinese people -- you'd never actually see it written down anywhere!

I personally found the book to be very useful in helping me be able to read handwriting that I've encountered in the real world. Whether it's right or wrong, or the way most people write I'm not qualfied to comment, but certainly you will find it useful if your goal is to learn to read Chinese handwriting.

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skylee

My views may not be applicable to adult learners of Chinese as a second/third/fourth language.

What I think is when I learnt Chinese, my textbooks were also printed in standard print fonts. I didn't learn how to read people's handwriting from books that taught exactly that. I learnt it from reading real handwriting (my teachers', classmates', parents' and my own) and by writing the words myself. Simply reading the handwriting might not be as effective as also practising handwriting yourselves (so that you know how people/you really write each word).

I recommend reading those real samples of handwriting on ma3zi1's thread (link at #66) or on the blog signese or any other such samples. And I recommend writing exercises (eg copy from your textbooks and do it quickly).

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realmayo

The thing is, Skylee, that for lots of people (certainly for me) most handwritten Chinese seems completely impossible to understand. So trying to understand it just by reading stuff you see would be like trying to learn a foreign language just by listening to it on the radio: possible, but would require an awful long time.

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realmayo

OK I'll go with Imron on this one: whenever Hoffman talks about handwriting/stroke order I always feel we're talking almost completely at cross purposes.

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skylee

Hi realmayo, how about practising handwriting? Do you think it will help?

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rezaf

I can't even read my own handwriting.

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skylee

Because it is non-existent? :D

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realmayo

Well skylee, I write a small amount every day, but I write it out "full". Without someone to teach me, and without using a book, I don't see how it would be useful for me to write in a way which I thought (guessed) Chinese people would be able to read. You see, if I have some Chinese written in front of me but can't understand what character is being written, that's not much help as a guide.

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rezaf

I need to write very fast in my exams and when I take notes in class. Since I have never learned 行書 or any other style properly I have developed some kind of ugly handwriting of my own but the problem is that sometimes even I can't recognize these characters.

post-10310-0-25626700-1325949601_thumb.jpg

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xiaocai
I have developed some kind of handwriting of my own

I think this is the case for most people.

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imron

*shameless plug*

As some of you might know, I recently launched a website that allows you to create worksheets for practicing Chinese characters - Hanzi Grids, and the site now has a couple of new handwriting fonts available (both a 楷书 font and a 行书 font).

What does this have to do with learning to read handwriting you ask?

Well, with some creative use of grid parameters, you can now use the site to create "handwritten" articles of your choice for reading practice.

For example, say you were reading an article online, and decided you'd like a handwritten version, simply copy and paste the text in to Hanzi Grids, adjust a few parameters, and then end result is what you see in the attachments below. I've included examples for both the handwriting fonts, and also a songti font for comparison, which should give you a good idea of the sort of thing that is possible.

songti.pdf

yingbikaishu.pdf

yingbixingshu.pdf

A small payment is required to get access to these fonts, but it's not too expensive, and if you recommend enough others to the site who then go on purchase a subscription also, you can get a full refund of this cost.

*end shameless plug*

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yialanliu

Meh, I know it's an old thread but wanted to throw this out there since someone linked here.

The best way to read handwriting is to write it. The more you write, the lazier you become and you start "cursive" chinese so to speak. Once you do it yourself, you'll know how to read it when others start cutting corners as well. The cut corners is the reason why it's hard to read, like not lifting the pen all the way up so the ink is connected.

Practicing pen calligraphy is great and all, but most people write notes in a speedily, not for a note to be very pretty. So for the purposes of learning how to read handwriting, practicing how to write normal is better than practicing calligraphy. Learning calligraphy is still a useful tool though since I think most foreigners write extremely ugly and could use some practice on this regard.

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skylee

I agree with yialanliu's #94, which is similar to what I said at #84.

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hedwards

Sorry to resurrect a long ago topic, but isn't allowing ones own handwriting to become sloppier a rather poor trade off here? You're getting the ability to learn to read sloppily written handwriting at the expense of writing correctly. My penmanship is always top notch in whatever language I'm dealing with, mainly because it's important to me. Poor penmanship means poor quality of thought and more importantly focus.

 

I'm interested in learning to read this stuff, but not because I really want to, I've just noticed that the notes I get are rarely, if ever, legible to any reasonable degree.

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Hofmann

By "sloppy" do you mean messy/disproportional or 行書? To learn to read 行書 is to learn a different script style from 楷書. There is good 行書 and there is sloppy 行書. Learning to read good 行書 will not teach you to read sloppy handwriting. If something's so sloppy and/or wrong that you can't read it or you don't want to read it, then it's completely reasonable to tell whoever wrote it to write neater or type it.

 

And you don't have to write like that, although it might be possible you're influenced. School teachers' spelling tends to deteriorate when they constantly read bad spelling, but I don't know if it also applies to handwriting (if we're both talking about sloppiness vs neatness instead of incorrect vs correct). I think it would be enough for you to consciously maintain a high standard even when you are wading through constant mediocrity.

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hedwards

@Hofmann, sorry the context there wasn't clear, I was referring back to post 94 where the suggestion was to write more and allow one to become lazier and more relaxed about writing to let the "cursive" emerge. But as you point out, cursive is more formal than that, from what I understand the actual cursive that folks use is something that has evolved over the last couple millenia, if I'm not greatly mistaken it's sometimes referred to in English as running script and evolved from a form of clerical writing from the 1st century CE. Or at least one of the styles that people think of as cursive has evolved from that, I've seen references to several other traditions that are similar in a sense, but have different conventions.

 

I suspect that learning to read scripts with that fonts that imron is providing via Hanzigrid, from wherever he licensed them, is probably the best compromise.

 

It's an interesting note about spelling, but I suspect that wouldn't apply as much as with spelling, the automaticity with which one writes letters is on a different level from the one on which one writes. The writing being much more heavily dominated by muscle memory that has no direct access to other people's handwriting. But, that's speculative, I'd be curious if anybody has bothered to study that.

 

Anyways, I'll probably save some money and get some books, as I said before I could are less about being able to create this style of writing, but it's clearly something that a person needs to be able to read if one wants to be literate.

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imron
from wherever he licensed them

Founder Type.  You can also pick up personal licences for those fonts for a handful of kuai.

 

But as you point out, cursive is more formal than that, from what I understand the actual cursive that folks use is something that has evolved over the last couple millenia

I think 'cursive' as a translated word means different things to different people.  From his blog series, Hofmann uses the term to refer to 行書 (compared to say 草書 which he translates as super cursive).

 

I imagine Skylee was using the term 'cursive' as commonly used shortcuts for writing characters.

 

Neither of them are necessarily right or wrong, both are adequate translations depending on the context, it's just that in different contexts the word means slightly different things.

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hedwards

@imron thanks, I'll have to consider that. Having my own licensed copy would allow me to use it with Anki and your text analyzer program in a way that would probably be too expensive for you to provide.I suspect that this is probably the best solution.I can have a deck of a more conservative font and then go through the same vocab with the harder to read font. I suspect that before too long I'll be able to at least make an educated guess about what the characters are. Although, it'll probably get a bit easier in general the more literate I get.

 

As far as I can tell there's multiple styles of abbreviation, simplification and beautification out there, I suspect that the most common forms are mostly based upon simplification that happens as the result of writing quickly and only implying things that are there rather than actually showing them. But, there are more formal methods that are more controlled and likely easier to rely upon.

 

Anyways, I much prefer the cleaner more careful characters as Hofmann is pushing for as it ensures that whatever I write gets firmly embedded in my brain. Any form of cursive or abbreviation seems to be inappropriate for anybody that hasn't firmly mastered the ability to read and write the characters correctly. I tend to think it's a bad idea to write the characters improperly even at that point as a matter of everyday writing, but folks at that level ought to understand what they're doing and why.

 

And since I probably forgot to say it earlier and am too lazy to look it up, thanks Hofmann for this most excellent series.

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