Learn Chinese in China
Scott Humm

Learning Traditional Characters After Studying Simplified For 4 Years!

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I've been studying simplified Chinese characters for 4 years, at universities in both the UK and China. I have just been offered a scholarship in Taiwan and I'm very excited about it. The thought of learning traditional characters, however, scares me a little. I wondered if anyone else has been in the same position as me, and if they have any advice on how to acquire the traditional characters.I can read and write about 3000 characters, and I do know a few traditional characters already, (like the ones which have just got a different radical, i.e. 谢 and 謝). For those of you who have been in this situation, are there any books or websites you can recommend which provide good resources on how to learn the traditional characters after having studied simplified characters for so long.

Thank you very much.

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After mastering those "automatically simplified components" (not only radicals but also phonetic components, which were almost always simplified in the same way when appearing in a certain position in a character... e.g. 谢 and 謝), you are halfway done, as they constitute the vast majority of all simplified/traditional differences. For the rest, I would just use the good old brute-force method, aided by SRS of course... I have once seen a book on this but can't remember it's name off the top of my head - I will have to ask a friend who used it before moving to Taiwan (he was in a similar position as you, though he knew less than 2000 characters at that time)

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Dear Scott,

Find a list of traditional characters ranked according to frequency.

Go through the list one by one noting the characters that you don't recognize.

Learn those characters.

If you have the NJStar Chinese Word Processor program, you can use that program to toggle between simplified and traditional to find the simplified equivalents for the traditional characters that you don't recognize.

It's a shareware program so you can get a working copy for free at their site. It won't have all the features of the paid registered version but the simplified to traditional conversion part is included.

I can read and write about 3000 characters, and I do know a few traditional characters already, (like the ones which have just got a different radical, i.e. 谢 and 謝).

Since you already know 3,000 characters learning a few more should be a breeze.

A lot of the simplified characters only had the radical part changed so after learning the traditional way of writing the few radicals that were changed you're good to go.

This shouldn't take more than a few days since the traditional way of writing some of these radicals are already a part of the simplified character set as stand alone characters.

For instance:

谢 (謝), 言(讠) "speech" is a part of simplified.

銅 (铜), 金(钅) "gold; metal" is a part of simplified.

餛 (馄), 食(饣) "eat; foodstuff" is a part of simplified.

Sometimes the non-radical part is radically different between trad. and simp. but the vast majority aren't.

Also note that for the food radical, when it's a component in a larger character it's written with one less stroke.

The rest of the simplifications are mostly variant forms that have been used for centuries, either derived from cursive script or have had component sections removed.

Here is a traditional character ranking:

Traditional Character Ranking

Good luck. Chinese learning shouldn't be made harder than it should be. :)

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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Only about 500 characters are dramatically different between traditional and simplified. Others are just a little different in the radicals.

If you already know 3000 characters, it'll take you only about 10 hours to get comfortable reading in traditional.

You can see the simplifications here in this table published by the PRC Ministry of Education:

http://www.yys.ac.cn/gfbz/shanghi/002.htm

《简化字总表》

See some earlier threads about making the jump from simplified characters to traditional.

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/14713-learning-hanzi-the-eternal-dilemma-of-simple-or-traditional/page__st__20__p__150151entry150151

This means that there are 500 characters that are significantly different between the two sets, and the rest appear to me to be easy (e.g. 説 = 说, 錢 = 钱, etc.)

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/26-traditional-vs-simplified-characters/page__st__40__p__64965entry64965

Traditional vs Simplified characters

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So much knowledge in one place... This forum is awesome B)

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I second gato's suggestion. Get the list of simplifications from the linked thread (this excludes part substitutions, which are easy) and brute force it. It's about 500 characters, and chances are you already know quite a few. Some others are very easy to learn when you see them.

Gato's 10 hour estimate may be a bit optimistic for a non-native speaker, but a month is certainly enough. Make flashcards and go through them every day. You'll be ready for Taiwan in no time.

In my experience, getting comfortable with 3000 characters is the hard part. Switching from simplified to traditional, or vice-versa, is easy.

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Just to agree with above - I studied only simplified, and it took me about a month of moderate flashcarding (learing about 20 of the 500 variations a day) to become comfortable enough to read traditional. With some work, this is not a big hurdle.

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I'm coming from Japanese and picking up simplified and traditional as I go, and even that isn't that big of a deal, so I'd like to echo the above thoughts. Granted, I'd already looked into them a bit before hitting Chinese, but it still had to be done, and it still wasn't that big of a deal. The kickers for me were ones like 仅, 击, and 丰, which aren't quite as systematic and easy to deduce from 僅, 擊, and 豐 (well, maybe 仅 should have been more obvious, but I kept thinking it was either the right side of 權 or the left side of 難, and I don't think either exists). So, you're in pretty good shape.

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I don't think learning to read traditional characters would be too difficult, but learning to write them would be such a pain. It literally takes twice as long to write each character in traditional than simplified. But if you're going to type rather than write them e.g. to complete assignments etc then it shouldn't be too big a deal.

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I converted to traditional characters about a month ago and I have decided not to write any of those so called jiantizi(錯字 as someone else mentioned somewhere)any longer. So far I have managed to learn most of the hanzi that I know in traditional. Whenever I don't know the traditional for a word I just check it on the pleco dictionary of my iphone. In general for me it has been easier to memorise fantizi comparing to jiantizi because they simply make more sense. They are harder to write but are great for 吹牛 which gives me even more motivation. Luckily in my university the teachers accept fantizi for the exams cause there are some Taiwanese students who can't write jiantizi.

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I'm at roughly 3000 characters and learning the traditional characters. However I'm not even bothering to add traditional characters to my flashcards. I'm just learning them by reading materials printed in traditional characters. It hasn't been too bad so far; when I encounter a character I can't figure out I'll look it up, but this happens far less frequently than I thought it would. I guess if there was some character that I consistently failed to recognize then I would add it to my flashcards, but there hasn't been such a case yet.

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In general for me it has been easier to memorise fantizi comparing to jiantizi because they simply make more sense

I have found that to be the case also. Traditional characters tend to give more visual information to the character's meaning.

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On the other hand, it's not a completely fair comparison, since you know a couple of thousand characters already. Once you know 1000 characters, ANY character will be easier to learn than before, whether traditional or simplified.

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yes it's not fair but it's much easier to make up a story based on the visual information of the character to memorise it in comparison to jiantizi where there isn't much logic in the construction of the character. It has been a few years since I learnt characters like 庆,压,庄 and for some reason I usually have problems in remembering how to write them but I have never had any problems with 慶,壓,莊. (At least for me) It's easy to learn jiantizi and it's easy to forget it, it's a little bit harder to learn fantizi and it's much harder to forget it.

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I too had to learn traditional characters a few years ago after exclusively using simplified for ten years. I was daunted at first but quickly realised it wasn't such a big obstacle, since once you get past the couple of hundred characters which are radically different, comprehension of the rest of them kind of just falls into place. There are a couple of strategies you can use to expedite the learning process, e.g. by downloading a Firefox plugin which displays all characters in-browser as traditional and switching your input program to traditional only. (You might get the odd complaint from mainland Chinese on QQ or MSN but it's worth it.)

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@ tooironic

Could you link to this plugin?

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I think it's 字体管理器. just search it in firefox applications.

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同文堂, I think.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6113/

新同文堂 (New Tong Wen Tang)

Features:

- To switch display Chinese webpage between traditional and simplified glyphs

- Auto-fix mis-mapped convertion content between traditional and simplified glyphs

- Convert the chinese content of clipboard between traditional and simplified

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Not sure if this is the same one, but I found a great one here.

*Edit: Gato was writing his response as I was writing mine =)

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大家好!

Scott, the situation I'm in is quite similar to the one listed in this post. I'm finishing my fourth year of studying Simplified characters at a university. I, too, have just been offered a scholarship to study in Taiwan. Yahooooo!!! :clap

I'll be making the transition from Simplified to Traditional characters in Taiwan. Do you have any advice/comments/input regarding switching characters and/or living in Taiwan? I'll listen to everything you're willing to share.

Best Wishes,

Maggie 8)

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