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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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Don_Horhe

I don't really see what the big fuss is all about, as simplification of characters did not start with the CCP. A large part of the simplified characters used today are quite old, 无/無 being a classical example. Characters like 国 and 宝 were simplified from 國 and 寶 respectively as early as the Song and Yuan dynasties, and some date even earlier 万/萬, the simplification being from the Han dynasty.

It is my opinion that anyone who is seriously into Chinese should learn traditional characters, at least have a passive knowledge - i.e. being able to read them.

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Meng Lelan

Quite a debate indeed. I just came back from a job interview for a position teaching Chinese in a high school. They are looking for a teacher who can do both simplified and traditional so I had to take a test that showed I can do both. Which had me wondering do all teachers of the Chinese language read and write both?

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rezaf

Last semester I was really into the traditional characters and I learned to write quite a few hundreds of them but when asking my teachers who supposedly have maseters (and even two PHDs) in Chinese I found out that they were only able to read and not to write. Come on, traditional characters are clearly not practical. I have some Taiwanese friends and they have serious problems with the traditional characters. I think that using the traditional characters is only appropriate in calligraphy.

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renzhe

If they've never learned how to write them, why would you expect them to be able to write them?

I can read the cyrillic script without trouble, but I can't write it. That doesn't mean that it's not practical. I know plenty of people who have no problem writing in cyrillic script. I also know plenty of people who have no problems writing traditional characters.

They are not THAT much more difficult, after all.

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DrWatson
Come on, traditional characters are clearly not practical. I have some Taiwanese friends and they have serious problems with the traditional characters. I think that using the traditional characters is only appropriate in calligraphy.

:roll:

Because reading articles and books and materials from Taiwan and Hong Kong is just not practical, right? We should wait for such material to be translated (if it is not censored and banned first) to simplified characters because that is practical?

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imron
Come on, traditional characters are clearly not practical.
Millions of people in HK and Taiwan would disagree with you there.

If you're talking about practical, then by the same logic one could argue that simplified characters aren't practical either, and should be abolished in favour of an alphabet-based system.

The fact that there aren't many people who support such a notion illustrates that practicality isn't necessarily the only concern in this debate.

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rezaf

Reading traditional characters is not difficult after learning simplifies characters but writing them is much more difficult and I meant writing. My Taiwanese friends are more than my Chinese friends so I think that I know the situation here. Can millions of people in HK and Taiwan answer why they make more mistakes than the people in mainland?

An alphabet-based system is of course more practical but it means cutting off yourself from your cultural roots and simplification is the middle way because the problem with traditional characters is serious.

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chaxiu

Characters were the thing that attracted me to Chinese in the first place. Initially in started with simplified in Australia and after moving to Taiwan traditional. I've travel back the mainland a few times since coming to Taiwan and never had any real dramas reading signs, menus, etc.

I'm curious as to whether simplification is beneficial for Chinese students at school. Is there any real difference in between a student from a decent high school in China to one in Taiwan or Hongkong?

Once a person leaves the formal education system, it's rare for someone to write any major piece of work by hand. I wonder if the 'computer' has made the whole debate I bit irrelevant.

Chaxiu

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rezaf

Well traditional characters take more time to write and I guess that it's more painful to write a text using them. Traditional characters are difficult to read too, so writing is not the only problem. I think the difference between those students is that Taiwanese students are more likely to hurt their eyes reading a bunch of solid squares

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DrWatson

Can you provide actual evidence that more people in HK and Taiwan make mistakes than their PRC counterparts? Or is it just based on what you've seen with friends only??? (Because that is largely subjective!) From my time in Taiwan and Japan I've noticed that most adults have trouble remembering characters in this day and age of e-mail and word processing. I bet something similar is happening in China too.

Traditional characters are difficult to read too, so writing is not the only problem. I think the difference between those students is that Taiwanese students are more likely to hurt their eyes reading a bunch of solid squares

That is really highly subjective too. As someone who started on traditional but learned simplified too (because honestly, you have to in this day and age), I find them easier on my eyes. The simplified characters hurt my eyes with all of the jagged edges. Sure, its easier to write and I can appreciate their utility, but it certainly isn't easier for me to read. So just keep in mind that just because it might be difficult for you, it is not necessarily the case for others.

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rezaf

When I say hurt the eyes I don't mean that they are ugly, because they are way more beautiful but dude whatever you say 5 is always more than 3. Your hands,your eyes and your brain slightly need more energy for writing and reading traditional characters.

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calibre2001

I think when natives write with a pen, they do apply simplifications to certain complex characters and radicals to save time. As a result I do notice at times that both character sets tend to look the same in handwritten form. Not all traditional character writers copy the printed character stroke for stroke. Look at chinese calligraphy- so many simplifications!

We need to learn these unwritten simplifications somehow..

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renzhe
An alphabet-based system is of course more practical

Is it really?

I mean, it's easier to learn, but is it easier to write, for a proficient native speaker?

I screw up all the time when writing English or other languages using Latin alphabet by hand. I can't write too fast, I'm not used to writing by hand anymore.

Your hands,your eyes and your brain slightly need more energy for writing and reading traditional characters.

They take somewhat longer to write, and probably longer to learn (my personal experience) but they don't take more brain energy to read, your brain doesn't work like that.

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rezaf

In case you haven't noticed they consist of more parts and recognizing more complicated shapes needs more energy. First of all your eyes have to recognize some details of the character and it needs more focus then your brain needs to analyze those parts. Isn't it obvious that 為 takes longer for your brain to analyse than 为?I know that the difference is not that much but when you read a longer text it will mater.

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chaxiu

I would agree with the logic that if a character has less strokes then it is easier for a child to learn to write at first. But the notion that your brain some how finds it more difficult to read say '一‘ vs ‘三’ or ‘我’ ‘義’ is a stretch. And if that is indeed the case then China should be developing a purely phonetic system.

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renzhe

Actually, no, it isn't obvious, because your brain is parallel.

You don't analyse characters stroke-by-stroke once you're internalised them. Your brain fires off as soon as it sees the character, however complex it is. Your brain is not analysing them, it is recognising a pattern. It doesn't take more energy to recognise a tree than it does to recognise a wall, even though the tree is far more complex in terms of structure.

The main problem is discriminating between similar-looking characters, and simplified characters have their own problems in that regard.

I like simplified characters, and prefer them to traditional ones (other than for calligraphy), but many of your arguments don't hold. I think that simplified characters are easier to learn (unlike some people who say that there is little difference), but when it comes to reading them, I don't think that there is a big difference if you're a native speaker who learned that particular set.

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imron

I agree with the points renzhe is making. I also prefer simplified because that's what I learnt, it's what I've had the most exposure to, and it's what I have to use on a daily basis.

The things is rezaf, 为 is easier for you to recognise because you've had more exposure to it than 為. If you had learnt traditional instead of simplified, you'd probably find it was the other way round. Personally I think the ease of character recognition has little to do with the number of strokes in each character. Sure it might make a difference for the first couple of hundred characters you learn, but after that, you should be recognising characters by shapes and not by strokes, in which case recognising 說 is no more difficult than recognising 说 (speech radical on the left, 兑 on the right).

Is it really?
I think yes it is more practical. This does not mean that I want to replace characters with such a system (I don't, and in fact the characters are part of what I enjoy about Chinese), but at the same time I can't deny that it would be more practical. A lot of what practical means though, is what you've grown up with and are used to, however for a proficient native speaker who had grown up using an alphabet based system (and I don't necessarily mean the latin alphabet here), I don't think they would run into the same problems of forgetting characters due to lack of writing or using computers too much (or at least not to the same degree you have with characters). Even if both systems were as practical as each other for writing (or even assuming characters were more practical for writing), when you factor in the huge amount of time spent learning characters that could have been put to other uses, an alphabet based system wins hands down for practicality. And just to emphasise my point, I'm only talking about praticality here, and not whether or not I think an alphabet based system should be adopted (I don't).

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foodtarget
I screw up all the time when writing English or other languages using Latin alphabet by hand.

A lot of English spelling is based on pronunciation of Middle English or the languages from which words were borrowed. Even though written English uses an alphabet, it is not phonetic, but phonemic. So written English (and most alphabetic writing systems) are meant to convey phonemes and not necessarily the actual pronunciation. In English, the spelling of words often diverges considerably from how they are spoken, so it understandable that speakers would make spelling mistakes. But as far as I know, most alphabetic writing systems designed for Chinese correspond closely with pronunciation and would therefore be fairly easy to read and write.

An alphabet-based system is of course more practical

I think there are many reasons why an alphabetic writing system would not be practical. First, there are many dialects that all make use of Chinese characters, and even when speaking 普通话 there are many variations in regional accents. One of the benefits of the logographic system of Chinese characters is that speakers of many dialects and accents can communicate effectively in writing. A system based on pronunciation (presumably of the "standard" Beijing 普通话) would undo all that. So basically, for a pronunciation-based writing system to be truly effective, the entire population of China would need to speak fairly standard 普通话.

Another benefit of Chinese characters is that they convey meaning and distinguish between words that are pronounced the same. For instance, my pocket dictionary has some 30 characters all pronounced yi4. And while I'm sure their meaning can be understood when heard in context or in word compounds, it is still clear that characters greatly reduce ambiguity. Also, in order for words to be understood based on context, a fairly good command of the spoken language is required. So while characters are somewhat of a pain to foreigners learning Chinese, an alphabetic system would present its own troubles (ambiguity).

don't take more brain energy to read, your brain doesn't work like that.

Yea, I completely agree. If more complex characters took more energy/time to read, then longer English words should take longer/more energy to read as your brain painstakingly analyzes each letter. But that's clearly not what happens, you just recognize the words with a glance. I'm sure we've all had experiences where we completely miss rather significant spelling mistakes while we're reading, because our brain doesn't analyze the details of words, it just recognizes a general shape and pattern.

The only time I think traditional characters might take more energy to read (due to brain and/or eye strain) is when they're printed so darn small that they're hard to recognize, so you have to search for distinguishing features and figure out particularly blot-like characters based on context. But maybe this is not a problem for native/literate speakers...

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renzhe
A lot of English spelling is based on pronunciation of Middle English or the languages from which words were borrowed.

My spelling is quite good, I rarely may those kinds of mistakes. I also make mistakes writing in my mother tongue, which is basically 100% phonetic.

I will often write the wrong letter, turn a 'P' into an 'R', mess up the lines, etc, while writing fast by hand.

The point is, writing is a skill you need to learn, and which decreases if not used. You can write each individual letter properly, but that doesn't mean you can write really fast without mistakes. At least I make these kinds of mistakes all the time, and have to force myself to write more slowly.

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renzhe
I think yes it is more practical.

Well, I agree it's easier to learn (though English is not exactly a good example).

But, once you've reached a proficient level, you don't notice the individual letters anymore, just like you don't notice individual strokes. You recognise the shape of the word, whether it's a character composed of strokes, or a word consisting of characters of an alphabet which are composed of strokes.

Another question is whether a phonetic alphabet is more practical for the Chinese language, and I'm not sure it is. I don't think that written pinyin with tone marks will ever be easier to read than a text written in Chinese characters.

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