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Traditional & Simplified Characters

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skylee

Jose, I like your post. Thank you.

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fenlan

Jose, thanks for posting the link to the 2nd list of simplified characters. I have seen 歺(can1), 氿 (jiu3) and 䒙 (zang4) in actual use on mainland China, so three of the 284 suggested simplifications are still alive and kicking. (By the way 歺 is a character pronounced dai3, and 氿 is a character pronounced gui3 - so these would become 多音字 according to the 2nd list.)

I believe that the Simplification of the characters and the creation of putonghua and pinyin: these are some of the greatest achievements of Communist China. They have created a modern standard language that has been adopted by hundreds of millions. As I said before, following the simplification, the traditional characters are just 别字.

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nipponman
I like Chinese characters because there is a magnificent cultural tradition and history behind them. I don't like these attempts at "improving" them. If tradition does not count, and it is just a matter of reading small fonts on a computer, why not dump the characters altogether and adopt pinyin? Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I also hope the Chinese government will reestablish the traditional script as the standard written form of Chinese at some point in the future. At the very least, they could at least leave it to the people to freely decide which system to use. That could give rise to a competition between the two systems, as in the Malaysian newspapers. It would be interesting to see which system would prevail.

I like/agree with this part the most, good post Jose.

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Ian_Lee

Regarding the traditional/simplified scripts, actually the attitudes of foreign governments are very confused too.

The only country that I find which is totally/absolutely immersed in simplified script should be France. No matter where you go, Department Store, Louvre,........etc. there will only be simplified script information (if it is available).

But in US, it is almost the opposite. My State's election registration form, driver's written test,....etc are all in traditional script (by law the State has to provide such official form in Chinese if the applicant doesn't know English).

So my advice is you'd better learn both scripts. Actually if you browse those foreign embassy/consulate websites, the script will automatically switch from SC in Beijing's embassy website to TC in HK's consulate website.

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bhchao

Actually I recently lost a potential employment opportunity with a government thinktank based in DC because I did not have a strong knowledge of simplified characters. The position required translating mainland Chinese texts into English. Since I had a pretty good grasp of Chinese history and politics, they asked me whether I knew simplified characters. Since I only know traditional characters, I did not get the position.

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Ian_Lee

Bhchao:

If I were you, I would say "Yes" that I know the simplified script. And before you fly to D.C. for interview, download dozens of simplified script articles and burn the midnite oil to read over it.

Most likely after two sleepless nights, you should have a grasp of the simplified script.

I never learn simplified script. But other than the "Headache Sydrome" that I had mentioned, usually I have no difficulty in reading simplified script article. And for the SC characters that I don't know -- I usually give it a good guess -- and 9 out of 10 times I figure it out correctly.

Since you job is most likely in translating simplified script material into other languages, i.e. English, you should not encounter much problem.

Of course, if you (or I) need to write in simplified script, then there may be some hurdles.

Like I said that no Mainlanders ever get lost in HK because they can't read the traditional script signs, the TC/SC issue should only pose problem for foreign learners.

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skylee

I am sorry for you, bhchao.

But you shouldn't have said you lacked knowledge of simplified characters. If you really think so, get a good book printed in simplified Chinese and read through it, then you will know most of the simplified Chinese characters (there is really not much to learn if you can use traditional characters already).

And you will get over the "headache sydrome".

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gato

Oh, well. Bhchao, it's a loss for the US government then. Hope they didn't hire a hothead neo-conservative, instead.

I agree that it would take only a few hours of study and some regular review to learn the simplified script if you already know the traditional, or vice versa. I have a HK-published dictionary 《中华高级新字典》that has a nice table listing all the characters that have been simplified and the rules used for simplification. All this in only 10 pages. It's not that hard. After some practice, you should be able to read the other form without any headache. My reading level is still in the lower high school range, but I can read both scripts comfortably now after some effort spent within the last year specially to learn the traditional scripts.

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bhchao

Ian, sky, gato, thanks for the advice. :) I bought a dictionary that also contains a table listing all the characters that have been simplified. Right next to each traditional character is the simplified version. Some simplified characters look almost completely different from the traditional form. For example, it's hard to distinguish 选 from 選.

I wanted to say that I had solid knowledge of simplified characters, but they give you an intermediate to advanced reading test when you arrive in D.C. And they also require you to have solid writing skills. Given the short time frame, I didn't want to say I knew simplified characters and then get caught lying if I flunk the advanced test!

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menk

I'm a newbie in this forum as well as in learning Chinese (DIY). I am confused over the radicals. In one of the sites (I've been to too many to remember which one), under the tradition option radicals are displayed while in simplified they are not. Does this mean that they are not applicable in simplied any longer? What are radicals? I was told that it would be easier to learn the language with them? :shock: I need to clear this block! Thanks.

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Altair

For at least the last several centuries, characters in Chinese dictionaries have been classified or indexed by radical and stroke count. The number of radicals used varies slightly from dictionary to dictionary, but hovers around 200.

The radicals are characters or strokes that appear as "relatively" common elements in other characters. They often give some clue as to the class of things the character belongs to.

Simplified characters use this same system; however, some modifications are necessary. Many simplified radicals have a different number of strokes from their traditional equivalents and so may be indexed differently. Some simplified characters have such different forms from their traditional versions that they must be listed under different radicals.

The most complications are caused when you try to index both types of characters at the same time. This causes great headaches for the makers of such dictionaries, but only minor problems to the readers trying to look up characters.

For a newbie, the importance of radicals is that recognizing them can help you break down characters into manageable pieces and maybe give a hint as to their meaning. Later on, when you get to the point where you must look up characters in a dictionary, you will have to spend an hour or two understanding the indexing system, which is based knowledge of radicals.

I hope this helps.

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menk

Yes, Altair, your notes are useful :). I'm trying to learn simplified characters but looks like I cannot ignore the radicals. Do you know of any site which covers this aspect well enough to learn the hovering 200? And thank you.

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Long Zhiren

If anything disturbs me about Chinese characters, it is how they hurt my eyes when they start getting so tiny in the newspapers... traditional characters are worse than the simplified because there's usually many more details packed into the tiny little spaces.

I'm glad that nobody's brought up the topic of "bo po mo pho." I hope that goes extinct.

Is there such thing as Chinese braille?

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nipponman

Personally, I don't think that simplified characters are easier to read on newspapers. It is just the font type that matters, not the size.

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Desmond

As a primary simplified learner, I was scared of traditional. I looked at traditional charactesr in a similar way that I looked at chinese characters in general before I started studying Chinese.

However, after learning a ton of simplified and quite a few traditional now, I find that remembering either style (how to read, how to write) has a similar difficulty level. However, traditional does take a little longer for me to learn to write, but eventually it becomes "learnt" along with the rest.

I agree with Nipponman, that reading traditional in newspapers isn't any harder than simplified. I find that they are both about equal (provided that I "know" the character fully, how to read it, write it, what it means, how to use it) in terms of the speed of recognition in papers, books, etc.

However, when it comes to computer screens, I much prefer simplified. Even if I "know" the character fully, it's still much harder to recognize. I use context a little more, and just the general shape and style of the (distorted) character to recognize it. Overall, simplified has panned out to be a little more convenient in this manner.

One thing I never really understood is how many people feel traditional is prettier than simplified. I guess in my mind, pure aesthetic beauty doesn't really play much into my judgements on Chinese characters. I'm assuming this is due to my utilitarian view on languages, that the more useful it is the more I want to know it. But I still do find some characters "easier on the eyes" and others not so much. Some of the nicer looking ones are simplified, like 处 vs 處, and some are traditional like 門 vs 门. But that's just my personal (foreign) opinion. What should determine a language's writing system is how useful it is and what kind of connections it's main users have to it

As for the changes that China has done to the writing system in the recent past, I'm still torn up about exactly how I feel. The utilitarian side of me says "it's simpler, easier to read on a monitor, quicker to write" and therefore better. But another part sees the history and attachment that the people have to it, having been the writing system for the past thousands of years. But how does the new generation mainland chinese feel about the writing system? How do they feel about the old system (that is still in use in TW and HK)? I wonder if by pushing the traditional system out of daily use, they have made it somewhat of a relic, a historical item that makes it more artistic, foreign, beautiful. Does traditional writing on an ancient structure in China now look more ancient? More cultured? Does it provide something extra for scholars to study (ie. it used to be prestigious to write characters, but now that most people can do it, is it more prestigious to write traditional as well?)

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this!

I'd like to hear your thoughts!

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Ian_Lee

Actually a lot of people in Mainland China know traditional script.

When people send mail from Hong Kong to Mainland, most of them write in traditional script. I have sent letter to Inner Mongolia in traditional script. And there was no problem at all. I guess at least in the post offices in Mainland, many postal workers know traditional script.

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mr. fanglang

now that the subject of bo po mo fo (zhuyin) has been brought up, thats a political issue in taiwan. most people in taiwan aren't even aware of the fact that nobody else in the world still uses this. i get shocked stares when i tell the people here that fact. but, many people in taiwan have politicized the whole chinese language issue and it will be awhile before bopomofo is gotten rid off. Its just like how taiwan has devised its own pinyin system just to be different from the globally accepted hanyu pinyin. like "zh" is "jh" in taiwan. english translations of street signs in taiwan are a total mess. and some people here also get pissed off that i roll my tongue to prononuce sounds such as "zhe" "che" etc because they think i am a communist for speaking something akin to the standard northern chinese putonghua.

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Lu

Fanglang, I never got shocked stares in Taiwan, quite the contrary. People ask me if I studied 'luoma pinyin', and when I tell them I did but that I also know bopomofo they are pleasantly surprised. And I never got looked at as a communist either, but some people did tell me I had a better accent than them (that was when I still had zhchsh). Where did you go in Taiwan??

But I fully agree with you that the streetsigns are a mess. It doesn't even matter that much which system you pick, Hanyu pinyin, tongyong pinyin, Wade-Giles, whatever, but just pick one and be consistent with it.

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mr. fanglang

some people have complented me on my mandarin pronunciation in taiwan while others have given me an evil stare and curt response implying that i should go back to the mainland being the commie lover that i am. as you may know, taiwan is a very divided society. many also don't understand why i am not interested in learning the mi-nan dialect (i.e. taiwanese) and a few have told me i can not live in taiwan if i don't know taiwanese.

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Altair
Yes, Altair, your notes are useful . I'm trying to learn simplified characters but looks like I cannot ignore the radicals. Do you know of any site which covers this aspect well enough to learn the hovering 200? And thank you.

Menk, I just realized I failed to respond. I had been hoping that others would have ideas specifically relevant to simplified.

Here is what I would recommend. Go to zhongwen.com. Look under "Search Dictionary" on the left side and click on "Radicals." Then start clicking on each radical to learn about it. Two important things to note are that the shaded characters represent headings that indicate the number of strokes in the following characters. You cannot click on the headings, only on the characters that follow. Second, this site is oriented toward the traditional characters, but lists the simplified equivalent in brackets after each head word that has been simplified.

Another thing worth noting is that the word "radical" in English seems to have taken on inconsistent meanings. I think that Chinese distinguishes multiple meanings:

部首 bùshǒu = characters used in dictionaries to index other characters

偏旁 piānpáng = character components

义旁 yìpáng = the component of a character that acts as a semantic classifier

声旁 shēngpáng = the component of a character that hints at the sound

My understanding is that the word "radical" really means only 部首 bùshǒu.

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