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Why Learning To Write Chinese Is A Waste Of Time

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Shi Tong

chinopinyin that's really interesting, and actually I think the same thing counts for words said in the wrong tone (which is why they're so important).. whereas a foreigner would hear it and think "that's supposed to be "x" tone", a Chinese person would automatically not understand or find it harder to realise the mistake-- I remember saying that my son's hair was.. "err.. err.. shi4 qiao1 qiao1de huo4shi4 qiao2 qiao2de" it took a while for it to sink into the ears and then the answer finally came in -- no it's qiao4qiao4 de.

"sticking up".

About the reading before writing thing also.. I would have thought that it's very difficult to write characters after learning to read them and though the reading helps, going back to the writing is also another task entirely-- I found this since I can read a lot more than I can write, and it's actually still really hard sometimes to see the differences between certain characters because you dont really understand the formation of the words and why some radicals or "pictures" (for want of a better word) are used in certain places.

I still get confused about which way the pen is supposed to go quite often on all kinds of things I can read easily.

Annoying ;)

I think it's a combination of both which leads to better comprehenshion, and plenty of reading.

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rezaf

Those results contain lots of other factors interfering. In order to know how learning hanzi can make you smarter you have to study one certain group before and after learning hanzi and learn about the fields that they have improved in separately. For me personally hanzi has been very helpful in improving my visual memory. I used to memorise stuff by making a logical connection between them before but now all I have to do is to picture the words and sentences in a book and it all comes back to me very fast. Also I have noticed that I can see more details in things than before. As visual memory is connected to a lot of our abilities I guess that Hanzi can improve IQ in quite a few fields.

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Zomac

The study is like suggesting that learning correct spelling and synonym is a waste of time because computers can always do better than you. A chess master is a waste of his talent because the deep blue has beaten all humans. Mental calculation can never be better than an electronic calculator so you shouldn't spend a minute on it. Any jobs which can be done by a machine shouldn't be done by a man...because it's again a waste of time.

While i love to save my time, i can't resist to waste my time surfing over internet and reading a lot of "useless" articles. I know that if I didn't read a book when i poop, i could save 60 hours a year.

The time saved by killing your own culture turns out to be wasted in somewhere else.

The study would be great, as long as it provided me with one basic proof: have anyone mastered the Chinese language without learning to write it down? In the world with no lack of new teaching methods, welcome to be another laboratory mice.

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rezaf

These things are not wasting time. The less you train your mind in calculating, writing etc the less chance you have in training your brain and intellectual ability. Even if you have a more advanced technology you will still need human's brain to program it and to control it. My visual memory has had a dramatic progress since I started learning hanzi. So is it a waste of time that now I just need to read an article a few times to memorise it word by word? Is it a waste of time that now I can remember what my teachers have taught me in the past just by visualising that memory? I'd say not learning to write hanzi is depriving yourself of having better intellectual abilities.

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skylee

now I just need to read an article a few times to memorise it word by word

This is very impressive. How long is the article?

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renzhe
My visual memory has had a dramatic progress since I started learning hanzi.

Mine hasn't.

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rezaf
This is very impressive. How long is the article?

Maybe it is not impressive for someone else with a better memory but if I compare myself to my past it is impressive. To see exactly how long it takes I just tested myself with this:

余每览越人入虢之诊,望齐侯之色,未尝不慨然叹其才秀也。怪当今居世之士,曾不留神医药,精究方术,上以疗君亲之疾,下以救贫贱之厄,中以保身长全,以养其生。但竞逐荣势,企踵权豪,孜孜汲汲,惟名利是务,崇饰其末,忽弃其本,华其外而悴其内。皮之不存,毛将安附焉?卒然遭邪风之气,婴非常之疾,患及祸至,而方震栗;降志屈节,钦望巫祝,告穷归天,束手受败。赍百年之寿命,持至贵之重器,委付凡医,恣其所措。咄嗟呜呼!厥身已毙,神明消灭,变为异物,幽潜重泉,徒为啼泣。痛夫!举世昏迷,莫能觉悟,不惜其命,若是轻生,彼何荣势之云哉?而进不能爱人知人,退不能爱身知己,遇灾值祸,身居厄地,蒙蒙昧昧,蠢若游魂。哀乎!趋世之士,驰竞浮华,不固根本,忘躯徇物,危若冰谷,至于是也!

It took me 23 minutes to memorise it. I know that it's not phenomenal but have in mind that I have been studying Chinese for about 3 years and I have just started learning 醫古文. I couldn't understand some parts of it so I just relied on my memory of the characters.

Mine hasn't

You mentioned that you skipped the writing part in learning Chinese.

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renzhe

I didn't skip it, I did it at a later stage.

How many characters can you write?

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rezaf

I really don't know but I guess about 3000 cuz it's definitely fewer than the characters I can read.

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c_redman

Maybe not exactly on the topic of hanzi' date=' medical opinion is that these things don't make any difference apparently. this study was about the effect of playing computer games to train the brain.

[/quote']

I think it's very relevant to the topic. The study found that "brain training games do not improve overall brain power, a scientific study launched by the BBC suggests." This contradicts the claim that writing characters boosts general intellectual abilities.

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rezaf
Maybe not exactly on the topic of hanzi, medical opinion is that these things don't make any difference apparently. this study was about the effect of playing computer games to train the brain..

I can't open this link in China but what is the connection between writing hanzi and a computer game?

I think it's very relevant to the topic. The study found that "brain training games do not improve overall brain power, a scientific study launched by the BBC suggests." This contradicts the claim that writing characters boosts general intellectual abilities.

Again I don't see how it is related to hanzi but if it doesn't train the brain so why do they call it a brain training game? Maybe it is the wrong kind of game. There are two things here that are related to hanzi if you want to prove the point:

1-Writing hanzi doesn't help visual memory and visualisation abilities.

2-Visual memory and visualisation don't help any other brain skills.

Maybe you can find articles about them.

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renzhe

Or maybe you can find studies which show that writing hanzi makes you smarter?

I really don't know but I guess about 3000 cuz it's definitely fewer than the characters I can read.

That's impressive. You've only been studying for a couple of years, right?

How many can you read?

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rezaf

3885

I write a lot. I am a serious case of 強迫症 that's why I don't wanna miss knowing anything when I start learning something. I don't wanna say that my method works for everyone but it has been working pretty well for me. My current method of study is memorising all the useful words from the dictionary from A to Z, so far I have covered a,b,c and half of d, and I think I can finish everything in 2 or 3 years. Everyday I review some part of the words I know and write them by heart. Plus I have to memorise lots of stuff for my classes(TCM). Writing and visualising the characters in my mind is the only way that I can handle this amount of information. Most of the time the things that I have to memorise are way above my Chinese level and I can just rely on my visual memory.

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Glenn

How did you figure that? That's an amazingly precise figure!

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rezaf

You can search for a list of commonly used characters and start counting.

My link

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renzhe

If you are going to memorise random words from a dictionary, then a production-based method is likely the best approach. This is why Heisig and similar approaches work well.

But language is highly contextual, and focusing on reading and conversation helps you develop this skill. I find it far more important to develop this, because a natural feeling for the language takes many years to achieve.

TBH, I went the rote memorisation route for characters and vocabulary in the beginning. I still think that it was a good choice, because my goal was to start reading and listening native materials as soon as possible, and then use the context to glue it all together. Personally, I don't think that writing characters will make you smarter, or that it is preferable to using your studying time to do other things (such as reading and listening).

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Shi Tong

Can someone just explain how this kind of thing works:

(一〕丰王井开亓夫天元无韦云专丐扎廿艺木五支厅卅不仄太犬区历友歹尤匹厄车巨牙屯戈比互切瓦

I find this confusing.. is it that the 一 is the basic starting stroke for all of the characters on the list on the right?

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rezaf

I don't recommend the method above to beginners of course. Getting the natural feeling of the language is the first step and since I go to university in China, I communicate with many Chinese classmates, teachers (and people in general) everyday. I am at a stage that only upgrading my vocabulary can make me progress. At first I thought about reading books and learning random words from them but then I found it too much time consuming(although it is a good and more natural method), then I realised that the only way to have the vocabulary of a native speaker is to learn all the common words in a categorised way. Studying a dictionary might not work well in another language like English but it's easy in Chinese cuz the rage of pronunciation is very limited and clear. for instance the words in the category of ai,ba,... and you can make it smaller using the tones just like a dictionary. It is a very good feeling that now I am sure I almost know all the words that a normal native speaker knows which start with a,b and c. A strong vocabulary makes me more confident in communication and gives me a lot of space for creativity as I intendedly try to use the words and chengyus I know even in normal conversations. The more natural method is to slowly absorb new words from the environment but with my method it's like I am the master of the words and I shape the environment myself.

Anyway any activity that you do with your brain makes you smarter and the harder the activity is the smarter you can get. As I told you in my major we have to memorise tons of TCM stuff that are very difficult to understand and the only way I can remember them is by visualising the sentences, an ability that I didn't have before writing lots of characters for several hours everyday. It's as if I have a very clear image of the characters in my mind and I don't really need to get confused in what they mean(cuz understanding Huangdineijing and books like that needs many years of experince). Maybe someone else doesn't have to memorise things and therefore doesn't need this ability but it is very vital for me as a TCM student and a doctor in the future.

Having said that I still think that a better visualisation ability can help in many other fields and I have read on the internet that it helps in learning math.

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renzhe
At first I thought about reading books and learning random words from them but then I found it too much time consuming(although it is a good and more natural method)' date=' then I realised that the only way to have the vocabulary of a native speaker is to learn all the common words in a categorised way.[/quote']

I actually agree with this, although I'd recommend something like the HSK vocabulary lists instead of a dictionary, because it will give you the more important and common words first.

For me, cramming lots of important words and reading a lot to get the meaning and feeling through context was really helpful. I'm not talking about "all Chinese all the time" stuff, I did finish some textbooks and paid attention to grammar, but I believe that lots of exposure is very important.

I'm just not convinced that producing the characters by hand is crucial. I think that it helps you memorise to a certain point, but you can also do fine without it -- as long as you make up for it through more context, more reading, and more revision. Eventually, the characters' structure and composition becomes clear for many characters, even without having explicitly learned to write them.

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