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wix

Traditional vs Simplified characters

Do you prefer traditional or simplified characters?  

62 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you prefer traditional or simplified characters?

    • Traditional
      94
    • Simplified
      83
    • dou keyi (no preference)
      51


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nipponman
I don't these points have been proven, yet.

Really? So te fact that literacy hasn't really improved drastically like it was supposed isn't proof enough for you? And seeing 層 as 层 automatically gives you evidence to its true pronunciation of ceng2 and true etymology? How did you learn to read and write?

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cp11141

I was taught the simplified characters and never had any significant exposure to traditional ones.

I only need to communicate in China and understand what the media says, so traditional characters are not important to me at the moment.

When (if) I reach a fairly advanced level, I'll try to get familiar with older forms as I think they help you better understand the culture by examining all sides of it.

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gato
So te fact that literacy hasn't really improved drastically like it was supposed isn't proof enough for you?
But literacy has improved drastically in China. Today the nationwide literacy level is around 85%. I don't know what it was before 1949, but it had to be less than 50%.

However, it's hard to separate out how much of the improvement in literacy is due to increased education and how much is due to character simplification. The latter is probably a much smaller factor, but I would argue that the simplification does help. It is easier to remember simpler characters than more complex ones. It is much easier to remember 人 than 曾, for example. Unless there is proof that simplification does not help, I would tend to believe that it does.

The argument that Taiwan and HK have higher literacy than the mainland though they use traditional characters doesn't work because of the vast disparity in income level. A more apt comparison would be compare literacy level in Shanghai versus that in either HK or Taipei. A good study would be see what third graders can read in Shanghai vs third graders in HK or Taiwan. This should be fairly simple. One can, in fact, compare the textbooks used.

According to this article by a mainland teacher, by the end of second grade, a student should be able to recognize 1600-1800 characters and be able to write 800-1000, recognize 2500 characters by the end of fourth grade and write 2000. See http://zw.juren.com/zjdx/index.html

小学语文三、四、五年级学习专区

新课标考核重点摘录:[识字与写字]累计认识常用汉字2500个,其中2000个左右会写。

But this list of commonly used words from Taiwan has 360 characters for second grade, and 870 characters for fourth grade. That is less than half the number of characters learned by mainland students in the same period. Maybe it's the difference between "commonly used" and "know". See http://residence.edu...nerwordgrd9.htm

On the effect of schooling on literacy level, you can look at this literacy survey a team of researchers did in China in 1996. http://repositories....28&context=ccpr

They gave a short literarcy to about 6000 adults in both rural and urban areas. The test consisted of recognizing 10 words of varying difficulty level.

Table 1. Characters Used in the Literacy Scale. [N=5,962]

Words (description) Percent responding correctly

一万 yiwan (ten thousand) 80.9

姓名 xingming (full name) 77.7

粮食 liangshi (grain) 76.4

函数 hanshu (function) 49.1

肆虐 sinue (wreak havoc or wanton massacre) 34.2

雕琢 diaozhuo (carve) 38.0

踟蹰 chichu (walk slowly) 1.4

舛谬 chuanmiu (erroneous) 1.7

耆老 qilao (octagenarian) 1.7

饕餮 taotie (glutton) .6

They found that "the average number of characters correctly identified out of 10 ranged from just over two for those born in 1927 (and hence age 69 in 1996) to just over five for those born in 1976 (and hence age 20 in 1996)."

The number of characters recognized was strongly correlated with years of schooling. See this chart:

literacy_school.jpg

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gato
And seeing 層 as 层 automatically gives you evidence to its true pronunciation of ceng2 and true etymology?
Just as many counter-examples can be given where the simplified form is more intuitive than the traditional. You need to look at the complete list to make a fair assessment. See http://www.stlcls.org/s-words/Simplified_word.htm or http://www.yys.ac.cn/gfbz/shanghi/002.htm (简化字总表, 1986年新版).

For example, 宝 vs. 寶, beside being easier to write, doesn't the 玉 in the simplified form give you a better hint of what the character is?

There is no reason that it should be easier to tell a word's pronunciation from the traditional form than the simplified because traditional characters were not created with Mandarin in mind whereas the simplified form is.

Edited by gato

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mrtoga

Maybe I have taken the wrong approach to studying Chinese characters, not focusing on the pronunciation radical too much but generally learning each character on its own. This is because when learning Japanese characters, this pronunciation radical is virtually obsolete and I had to learn several readings for each character anyway - switching to Chinese was relatively easy.

The test of how quickly non-native students can learn a written language is surely a good indication of how easy / difficult the learning process is. Is there any information regarding the general ability of foreigners at universities to write / read after one year, two years. three years etc., contrasting those studying simplified script with traditional script?

Intuitively I would have thought that simplified would be easier to learn, but reading this thread puts some doubt in my mind.

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Mark Yong
It is much easier to remember 人 than 曾, for example.

Agreed. But the real question should be: Is it really easier to remember 層 instead of 层? I agree that the latter is easier to write, but I cannot agree that the former is more difficult to remember, much less recognise.

There is no reason that it should be easier to tell a word's pronunciation from the traditional form than the simplified because traditional characters were not created with Mandarin in mind whereas the simplified form is

Again, I suppose I am coming from a slightly different angle - the angle of character recognition, rather than strict congruence to Modern Mandarin pronunciation. I agree, it may be easier to relate many of the Simplified Characters to the modern Mandarin pronunciation compared to Traditional Characters (郵/邮 being one good example). I only question/object to the simplification when etylomogy and meaning is compromised, resulting in the loss of the universality feature of 漢字 shared among the East Asian nations.

I suppose this is my way of saying that after 2,000 years of 漢字 having the powerful feature of changelessness, such that it was easily adopted by other East Asian nations outside of China, it is a great pity that the simplification exercise has effectively arrowed it down to an exclusively Chinese (or, more accurately, Mandarin) vehicle of communication.

For example, 宝 vs. 寶, beside being easier to write, doesn't the 玉 in the simplified form give you a better hint of what the character is?

In this particular example, not necessarily so. The 玉 radical is normally used in words for precious stones, e.g. 珠, 碧. On the other hand, 貝 connotes the meaning of something precious, valued or coveted - which is closer in meaning to 'bao3' 寶 (with other examples being 貫, 負, 貨, etc.).

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Mugi

My 2 cents worth: I think gato has summed up the situation pretty well. The only thing I would add is that any arguement, whether for simplified or traditional, with regard to maintaining the "etymologies" of characters is redundant in practice with respect to native Chinese speakers learning and remembering characters. In my experience, very few Chinese have more than a rudementary grasp of the fact that radicals point towards meaning, and their conscious recognition of phonetic components isn't much better. Try asking Chinese if there is a phonetic relationship between 黃 and 廣 and see how often you get the reply, "Now that you mention it, I guess there is..." It never occurs to most native speakers unless the initial is also (or almost) the same too. And how do we know that these phonetic components carry little practical weight? By virtue of the fact that they are frequently modified, substituted or omitted altogether in simplification by native Chinese speakers, and no-one (native Chinese speakers) batters an eyelid.

Let's also not forget that practically all simplifications are either:

1) Reversions to original forms (eg. 从, 无);

2) Adoption of popular "vulgar" forms, which had usually been in common use for centuries (体, 义)

3) Substitution of complicated phonetic components for simpler ones (极, 迁; usually only works well for Mandarin)

4) Regularization of running/grass form characters 草體的楷書化 (书, 龙; 饭, 铅)

I think it is really only a sub-category of this last group (i.e. regularization of the radical only) that leads to simplified text looking less aesthetically pleasing to the eye than traditional text.

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student
According to this article by a mainland teacher, by the end of second grade, a student should be able to recognize 1600-1800 characters and be able to write 800-1000, recognize 2500 characters by the end of fourth grade and write 2000. See http://www.hfyhjy.com/ReadNews.asp?NewsID=325

Does anyone have a list of characters learned by mainland students in each grade?

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mrtoga

If what Mugi says is right considering etymology and native Chinese learning characters (and I suspect it is), then the advantages for using the simplified script in mainland China are clear - if it helps more people become more literate more quickly then it is a good thing. I appreciate that some may lament the loss of a more elegant and rich traditional script, but that is not the priority for China right now.

Japan went through a similar process of simplification, meaning only scholars can read old historical documents. It is currently undergoing an even greater transformation with the deluge of loan words, mainly from English. Languages do change, they transform themselves. This simply reflects changes in society.

As an aside, how does the Taiwanese script deal with loanwords like 比萨,伊斯兰,朗姆酒 etc.? Is it not more cumbersome?

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Mark Yong
Let's also not forget that practically all simplifications are either:

1) Reversions to original forms (eg. 从, 无);

2) Adoption of popular "vulgar" forms, which had usually been in common use for centuries (体, 义)

3) Substitution of complicated phonetic components for simpler ones (极, 迁; usually only works well for Mandarin)

4) Regularization of running/grass form characters 草體的楷書化 (书, 龙; 饭, 铅)

Agreed. However, there is a 5th category that you did not include, and that is the one which I personally have a lot of objections to. It is the merging of several originally-different characters into a single character. I cite some examples below:

1. 只 (只是) and 隻 (一隻), now merged into 只.

2. 裡 (裡面) and 里 (公里), now merged into 里.

3. 蘭 (蘭花) and 藍 (藍色), now merged into 兰.

Category #3 that you mentioned above is good for Mandarin, but it is a pity that the price is the marginalisation of the non-Mandarin readings of 漢字.

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Mugi

Mark, you're right - I missed a category! And in principle I have some reservations too about the merging of two originally separate characters into one, but for the most part it never hinders reading comprehension.

(Ps "(蘭花) and 藍 (藍色), now merged into 兰" is not true. I've seen individuals write 兰 for blue, but the officially approved character is 蓝. I doubt that you would often see 兰色 in print very often.)

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nipponman
For example, 宝 vs. 寶, beside being easier to write, doesn't the 玉 in the simplified form give you a better hint of what the character is?

There is no reason that it should be easier to tell a word's pronunciation from the traditional form than the simplified because traditional characters were not created with Mandarin in mind whereas the simplified form is.

It is much easier to remember 人 than 曾, for example.

That goes without saying though! These two characters have nothing to do with each other!

Even though Mark already addressed this issue, I also have something to say. No 玉 yu4 doesn't give me a better hint at the character, when I see 寶 I say, "oh, bao3." but when I see 宝 I say, "whats that? yu2 oh wait thats bao3." 宝 is definitely easier to write, but its harder to remember. 寶 has bei4 in it, and other elements that might hint at the pronunciation, though sometimes this doesn't work with 宝 it would never work.

Japan went through a similar process of simplification, meaning only scholars can read old historical documents. It is currently undergoing an even greater transformation with the deluge of loan words, mainly from English. Languages do change, they transform themselves. This simply reflects changes in society.

We need to decide if this change is good and necessary, however. I'm still not convinced that simplification helps literacy. And if it doesn't, then what good is it?

P.s. Also the link you provided, gato, doesn't work.

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gato
Even though Mark already addressed this issue, I also have something to say. No 玉 yu4 doesn't give me a better hint at the character, when I see 寶 I say, "oh, bao3." but when I see 宝 I say, "whats that? yu2 oh wait thats bao3." 宝 is definitely easier to write, but its harder to remember. 寶 has bei4 in it, and other elements that might hint at the pronunciation, though sometimes this doesn't work with 宝 it would never work.

Maybe what you know from Japanese Kanji is causing you prefer to the traditional form. You say that 寶 is easier to remember than 宝. I find that difficult to comprehend. Maybe a poll should be done.

P.s. Also the link you provided, gato, doesn't work.
Which link are you refering to? I just rechecked all 5 links I posted above. They seem to work fine.

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nipponman
Just as many counter-examples can be given where the simplified form is more intuitive than the traditional. You need to look at the complete list to make a fair assessment. See http://art.84c.cn/new/article/2005-10-27/160-1.htm.

This one doesn't work. Either the service is temp. unavailable, or the page won't load.

Maybe what you know from Japanese Kanji is causing you prefer to the traditional form. You say that 寶 is easier to remember than 宝. I find that difficult to comprehend. Maybe a poll should be done.

When I say 寶 is easier to remember, its not from a character perspective. They use 宝 in Japanese as well. It is from a perspective of being able to look at the character without confusion. 宝 has yu4 in it plut mian4(?) but 寶 just looks like a bao3, I can't really explain it, maybe its the bei4 and other elements.

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novemberfog
when I see 寶 I say, "oh, bao3." but when I see 宝 I say, "whats that? yu2 oh wait thats bao3."

I agree, with the traditional form there is no question what the character is. If you know the character you can continue skimming and speed reading. But for simplified you have to stop and do some analysis.

For native speakers it is probably not an issue though. If you think about it, most words in your native language are learned verbally. You know the word, but sometimes you don't know how to write it. Sometimes you really have to think hard about the spelling because you do not see the word in writing so often. In such a case I can see how simplified might be easier to work with. But that only benefits speakers of manadarin as a native language.

I do not see how it helps people from Hong Kong, and especially foreign learners. If anything, is it not more confusing? I suppose the goal was to make Mandarin the standard and to get everyone to speak Mandarin as their native tongue over time. But as you can see in places like Shanghai, Shenzhen, and others...people are still holding onto their culture.

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zhwj

宝 is a poor example of the failure of simplification, because the traditional form 寳 contains not only 貝 but 玉 (and 缶) as well. Is the removal of two of three treasures from the house an ironic commentary on the price of progress?

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Mugi
Originally posted by novemberfog

I agree, with the traditional form there is no question what the character is. If you know the character you can continue skimming and speed reading. But for simplified you have to stop and do some analysis.

This is simply a case of what you're used to. As you alluded to further in your post (and I have mentioned earlier), the vast majority of native Chinese speakers don't "analyse" unknown characters beyond the point of determining the radical and residual stroke order to look it up, or more recently with the advent of alphabetized dictionaries you may have a small number of people who will attempt to look for a phonetic component and try looking it up that way (although in the case of 寶/宝, that's not going to work). "Analysing" characters is the sole realm of us foreign learners along with an extremely small number of academics.

The fact that you may be used to seeing 寶 notwithstanding, from an objective standpoint, I doubt that in skimming or speed reading that 寶 would be easier to distinguish from say 實... There are certainly cases where simplified characters look so similar as to be easliy confused when skimming/speed reading, but for every example you could give, I could give you a similar example of confusing traditional characters.

Originally posted by zhwj

宝 is a poor example of the failure of simplification, because the traditional form 寳 contains not only 貝 but 玉 (and 缶) as well. Is the removal of two of three treasures from the house an ironic commentary on the price of progress?

You're quite right, it doesn't get much more ironic than this! :)

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Long Zhiren

Here's another resurrected thread...

bhchao writes (on 12 April 2006):

Exactly. Therefore it is practical to learn both. Simplified script may be popular on the Mainland; but other than Taiwan and Hong Kong, traditional script is overwhelmingly popular in overseas Chinese communities, especially in North America.

Even though people in Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere may use traditional script, have you noticed their short-hand? Their short-hand writing is essentially simplified script. To many of them nevertheless, most simplified script is still alien to them. It is as if they use simplified script in their short-hand but they're not sufficiently used to a whole breadth of simplified vocabulary to be comfortable with it all the time.

My first years of learning Chinese were all by traditional script. To this day, I still have a hell of a time trying to read somebody's short-hand. Interestingly, if it's a Chinese engineer, their handwriting is much more legible to me...very square, like newspaper print if they're not being sloppy.

I've never gotten around to asking, but now I want to know how native Chinese people develop their short-hand writing? Apparently, there's many common simplifications, and those simplifications converge on "simplified" script.

Another reason to keep traditional script alive is for prestige. If it disappears, the Japanese will still have kanji and the whole world will be under the impression that it was never Chinese.

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ipsi()

I can only read and write simplified, essentially (though I can write 1 or 2 trad. characters, and read a few more), but I would like to learn traditional at some point, for the reason below:

Agreed. However, there is a 5th category that you did not include, and that is the one which I personally have a lot of objections to. It is the merging of several originally-different characters into a single character.

I also agree with this point in principle, though I'm not sure how many were merged, and how distinct their meanings were before.

I dislike ambiguity in written language, and given that traditional takes no more time to write on a computer once you've learnt it, that's what I would prefer. However, for writing by hand, simplified, far and away. But I don't do much writing by hand.

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