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chinopinyin

Why Learning To Write Chinese Is A Waste Of Time

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renzhe

I can read around 4000 characters, but only write around 1000.

I have only started learning to write characters after having read several full-length books. I don't agree with the argument that you can't read if you haven't learned to write.

This is not a comment on whether you should learn to write or not. Certainly knowing how to write has advantages which are more important to some people than others.

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chinopinyin

I have only started learning to write characters after having read several full-length books. I don't agree with the argument that you can't read if you haven't learned to write.

I fully agree with renzhe, although my Chinese clearly lags behind his/hers. I've just passed HSK level 2 and the only chinese I've written so far has been electronic. This has not prevented me from reading Chinese Breeze books

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chinopinyin

Theresa Jen and Ping Xu published the paper Penless Chinese Character Reproduction in Sino-Platonic Papers (March 2000). You may want to read it here

They argue that, in the early stages, learners should avoid writing Chinese by hand and only write electronically.

The fact that there is no written part in the new HSK exam levels 1 and 2 is in line with this suggestion

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chinopinyin

I would like to formalise my future language achievement, and would therefore like to pass the new HSK (levels 5 & 6), but this would require hand-writing skills in chinese. Unfortunately, I can see little practical benefit to me as a business man in being able to hand-write chinese. After all, I almost never hand-write english in either a business or a personal context.

There is one way out of your quandary. You could aim to get scores of 90 out of 100 in both the listening and the reading parts of the exam and leave the written part blank. Overall, you would get 180/300 and pass the exam.

In fact, a section of the written part only requires you to reorder sentences, so simply being able to copy characters (and knowing the right grammar) will allow you to get up to, I think, 60 points in this part

Just an idea ;)

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anonymoose

There is one way out of your quandary. You could aim to get scores of 90 out of 100 in both the listening and the reading parts of the exam and leave the written part blank. Overall, you would get 180/300 and pass the exam.

In fact, a section of the written part only requires you to reorder sentences, so simply being able to copy characters (and knowing the right grammar) will allow you to get up to, I think, 60 points in this part

Just an idea ;)

No, because you have to pass each section to get an overall pass.

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BertR

No, because you have to pass each section to get an overall pass.

That was for the old exam, but not for the new HSK. For the new test you succeed when you have 180 on 300 in total. You are allowed to fail one of the parts.

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anonymoose

Isn't the new exam separate for each skill? I mean, if that's the case, he could just not take the written exam.

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BertR

Isn't the new exam separate for each skill? I mean, if that's the case, he could just not take the written exam.

There are 2 kind of exams. A "written" (笔试) one and an oral (口试) one.

The new HSK 1 & 2 written exam ((笔试) has 2 parts (listening (听力) and reading (阅读)).

From HSK 3 on, there are three parts for the 笔试: listening (听力), reading (阅读) and writing (书写)。 Each part is on 100 points (so in total 300) and you succeed when you have 180.

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rezaf

I can read around 4000 characters, but only write around 1000.

I have only started learning to write characters after having read several full-length books. I don't agree with the argument that you can't read if you haven't learned to write.

This is not a comment on whether you should learn to write or not. Certainly knowing how to write has advantages which are more important to some people than others.

I can read around 4000 and can only confidently write half of them, but it doesnt mean that I haven't learned writing the rest at one point. The question that you should ask yourself is if when you started learning Chinese you never tried to write any characters and you had no problems reading. Especially at the beginning it is very necessary to learn writing cuz that's how you learn the inner structure of characters. This structure can't be recognised easily by the eyes of someone who hasn't written anything. Of course after some time when you are familiar with the structure there is really no need for writing with hand(in case writing with hand is not really necessary for you). My point is that learning to write acctually helps you save a lot of time in learning Chinese cuz you won't easily forget what you have learned and it increases your speed in recognising the characters.

I've just passed HSK level 2 and the only chinese I've written so far has been electronic. This has not prevented me from reading Chinese Breeze books

Maybe that's why you should change your method of study. In my first semester in China I learned to write quite a few hundred characters and I passed HSK level 4. I had 3 classmates who came here in the middle of the semester and they also passed level 4(one of them 3) only after 2 months. We used to spend a lot of time at the library writing characters over and over because our teacher used to give us tons of homework and most of it was about copying the textbook's Characters and pinyin.

I'm not saying that you can't learn reading without learning to write but it saves you a lot of time and increases your speed. In a system things are all related to each other and even if they don't seem connected at the first glance they help each other in many ways indirectly. Think about building a house. Why do you think that we dig the ground although we don't want to live uderground? It is possible to build a house without digging but you can only hope for a small cottage whereas you can build a skyscraper after digging the earth.

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renzhe
The question that you should ask yourself is if when you started learning Chinese you never tried to write any characters

Correct.

I think that I've written a grand total of 1000 characters in my entire life. Which explains why my handwriting is so awful. In fact, the ONLY reason why I started learning to write in the end was my plan to eventually take the HSK advanced. With many characters, I had seen them so often and knew the structure, that I could write them without ever having learned to do it. To this day, I still have trouble remembering how to write 然, but this doesn't mean that I can't read it. I could read it the second day after starting to lean Chinese.

It is possible to recognise radicals and other components without having written them. I don't think that my progress was slower as a result of skipping the writing part, in fact, I think that it was much faster.

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anonymoose

anonymoose, there is a thread in this forum on the new HSK here

Oh, OK, I didn't realise they had a new "new exam". So are the old new exam and the old exam still being offered?

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renzhe

The old one is being phased out. My local Confucius institute does not offer it anymore, for example.

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anonymoose

So I have no chance of getting HSK 11 now then? 5555

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rezaf

As opposed to you I definitely owe my progress to the amount of time I spent on copying the texts(the whole text not just characters) from our books in my first year as our teacher always gave us that kind of homework. At the the end, the progress in our class was clearly way above the other classes and we got many students who passed HSK level 6,7 and 8 in our class in that year. It is as if those sentences are carved in my brain and still I can easily use them in different situations.

P.S. Writing is a well-known memorising technique. The more senses and actions you use in memorising, the better you will save the information in your brain.

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renzhe

There are many paths to the summit.

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rezaf

There are many paths to the summit.

Yes but shortcuts are not always good when it comes to sacrificing an important part of a system no matter how big or small it is. You can still walk without your toes but does it really feel the same?

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renzhe

I can read Lu Xun and Eileen Chang and Jin Yong. What exactly am I sacrificing?

When it comes to learning to read as such, I don't think that I'm missing anything. Of course, my writing is spotty. But it will be hard to convince me that I'd be reading much better now if I had copied thousands of characters over and over. Better at writing, yes, but not better at reading.

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chinopinyin

Chinese University students often know what the characters should look like, but just can’t write them. Computers are one of the biggest reasons.

See here

Isn't it amazing?

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rezaf

I can read Lu Xun and Eileen Chang and Jin Yong. What exactly am I sacrificing?

When it comes to learning to read as such, I don't think that I'm missing anything. Of course, my writing is spotty. But it will be hard to convince me that I'd be reading much better now if I had copied thousands of characters over and over. Better at writing, yes, but not better at reading.

As I remember from your posts I know that your Chinese is very good, so don't get me wrong but you don't qualify as someone who hasn't done any writing and has learned reading Chinese very fast. As you said at some point you have practised writing hanzi. How can you be sure that it hasn't helped you to get where you are now? How can you be sure that you couldn't have progressed faster if you had put more effort in writing? How can you be sure that your method works for the majority of students? The problem is that this guy in his article hasn't done any scientific studies with clearly devided groups of students(as I mentioned in one of my posts) about what his claims, but on the other hand we have lots of research about how writing can help memory and how writing hanzi activates your brain and makes you smarter. The incredibly good results of my class in my first year was due to the method our teacher used in having us copy the texts (not just the characters). It might not be a scientific research but it was enough for me to realise the benefits of writing in speeding up memorising and not forgetting what I have learned.

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