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Traditional & Simplified Characters

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smithsgj

Osmosis? 因為他們都是中國人?You're right tho, they're not formally taught.

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akdn
Osmosis? 因為他們都是中國人?

Yeah, I go with this. A bit like AmE and BrE spelling differences, but complexity multiplied by a thousand.

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Quest

lol look like some transfer function transistor symbols to me

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Hofmann

I really hope the mainland switches back to traditional characters. They've been that way for a long time and they shouldn't mutilate them. At least print in traditional. It's really disturbing to see classic literature written in simplified chinese. Simplified characters are not easier to read. (not to mention they're damned ugly)

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shiaosan

For people who wish mainland should go back to traditional characters, they probably forgot TC is the second last version of all the forms of characters Chinese people have ever used. Characters do evolve just like every other thing. If they cherish TC so much, for the same reason, they should be studying the original pictures and script when Chinese people first invented them. :wink:

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fenlan
For people who wish mainland should go back to traditional characters, they probably forgot TC is the second last version of all the forms of characters Chinese people have ever used.

Shiaosan, I do agree. Which is why I refused to accept that TC are 正体字. To my mind, the government in China has always played a role in standardising characters, right back to Qin Shihuang, and so the characters promulgated by the government are the only 正体字. In other words, TC are, to me, just 别字.

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Jose

I disagree with the latest two comments. The switch from TC to SC was not "natural evolution" of a language, but a political decision. As such, we can analyse it and criticise it.

The reforms undertaken by the Chinese government in the 50s and the 60s were much more radical than previous reforms in several aspects: First, whle it is true that the styles in which characters are written have changed considerably over time, the logical structure of the characters remained fundamentally unchanged for more than 2000 years. Ancient forms of 園 and 國, for example, were made up of the basic characters 袁 and 或 within a closed boundary. Changing those characters to 园 and 国 alters their basic structure, and, in doing so, is much more radical than previous reforms, in my opinion. Another radical aspect of the reform, which I profoundly dislike, is the way they blurred the limits between the calligraphy styles. While it may be true that characters like 车, 东 or 乐 are based on the cursive ("grass") style, they look awful (and confusingly similar) when their strokes are forced into a kaishu pattern.

If the reform had happened centuries ago, and TC were a dead writing system by now, we would have to accept Shiaosan's analysis. But it was done barely fifty years ago, in the middle of other radical reforms that have been discredited by history. Just like the economic and social aspects of the Cultural Revolution have been condemned even in China, why can't we have a debate over the merits of script reform?

I think the reason why many of us are so deeply fascinated by the Chinese script is its long history. I can't accept the idea that characters that have been used for a few decades are as orthodox as the characters that were used for centuries.

The saddest thing about the reform is that it was pointless. Simplified characters are, at least in my experience, as difficult to learn as the traditional ones. They're faster to write, granted, but that only justifies their usefulness as short-hand forms, not as standard printed forms. Besides, the reform has split mainland China from the other Chinese communities and, even more importantly, from their own cultural tradition. While a Chinese person in Taipei or Hong Kong can go to a local library and read books printed 100 years ago, a Chinese person in the mainland needs some extra training to read pre-simplification books with ease.

I agree with Hofmann. I also hope that the mainland authorities will end the simplified-only policy.

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nipponman
Originally posted by Jose

The saddest thing about the reform is that it was pointless. Simplified characters are, at least in my experience, as difficult to learn as the traditional ones. They're faster to write, granted, but that only justifies their usefulness as short-hand forms, not as standard printed forms. Besides, the reform has split mainland China from the other Chinese communities and, even more importantly, from their own cultural tradition. While a Chinese person in Taipei or Hong Kong can go to a local library and read books printed 100 years ago, a Chinese person in the mainland needs some extra training to read pre-simplification books with ease.

:clap , I agree completely Jose. Simplification has done nothing but destroy the beauty that is hanzi. Furthermore, I'm not sure that it has fulfilled its original purpose, to increase literacy rates. Haven't they stayed the same over the last 50 odd years? What China needs is not simplification, but a love for their own culture and history.

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chenpv

it seems that i will be spokesman of the govenment again, which is most probable to cause oppositions from some western friends who dont have positive feeling to Chinese govenment. but still, i will say it.

the transition from TC to SC is not an 'natural evolution' of the lauguage and it was a regulation decided and carried out by the Chinese govenment. in my opinion, this regulation had nothing to do with 'reform' 'politics' etc, however, this regulation made the key point in chinas recovery from the decades of wartime, during which almost all the chinese were deprived of education. In this respect, after china's foundation, the Chinese govenment had to deal with a nation of illiterates besides other economic and political issues. i dont want to comment on the decision of simplifying chinese characters to speed up education process, but i just want to say chinese govenment had tried his best to help so large a population get rid of fatuity and unwisdom, which managed to salvaging the chinese culture to some extent. Maybe SC is not so expressive and explanative as TC, but consider more people would benefit from this regulation since its much easier to learn, i believe we have no rights to blame on chinese govenment or SC for so-called jeopardising the chinese culture. As for where would the SC go in the future, i dont know exactly and dont want to predict so, because time will decide.

By the way, TC is still used in the mainland. check all the books published by <中华书局〉,you will find TC hasnt 'demised'.

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sui.generis
There're some specific rules that we follows when writing "written format" Chinese. So there are no difficulty for anyone who uses Traditional Chiense to understand what the others are written in "written format" unless the person's "written format" have simplified a bit too much such that the word has lost the "spirit" of the word. [b']So really, I see no sense to use the reason of "too slow in writing" for teaching simplified Chinese but not Traditional Chinese.[/b]

Yeah, because learning how to capture the essence of every character would only take, what, 10 years of experience for the non-native?

I disagree with the latest two comments. The switch from TC to SC was not "natural evolution" of a language, but a political decision. As such, we can analyse it and criticise it.

We can analyze and critize anything, political or evolutionary--though the former is probably easier to do outside the mainland. Just because something is 'natural' (which in this instance, ironically enough, actually means 'man-made') doesn't make it free from criticism.

However, I was under the impression (perhaps mistakenly) that simplified forms were commonly written long before the advent of Communism in China, they just weren't used in any official capacity. If that is the case, then yes, they were the natural evolution of Chinese characters.

Either way, lazy Chinese students everywhere rejoice at the option to study SC.

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fenlan

The middle way position is that some of the simplifications were good and others bad. The language radical simplification does not impede intelligibility or anything else. In fact of the 2000+ simplified characters, only about 400 were of a style that clearly broke with tradition. And in some cases this impedes, instead of promoting, literacy.

Take 让 for example. It's traditional form was 讓. Now, clearly it is easier to write and memorize 让. But what happens when the learner wants to learn the characters 壤,嚷,攘, 禳, 瓤,穰,攮 and 馕? For Taiwanese and HK residents, the transition from 讓 to 壤 is easy. For mainlanders, it is yet another completely fresh character form to learn. So, although I support the character simplification, some simplifications were intelligent and some were dumb.

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nipponman

Has literacy increased dramatically since the introduction of simplified characters? If not, than I think it is obvious that simplified characters should be abolished completely. It's just like the war in Iraq...:roll:

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lau

Japanese people have simplified their characters as well, like for example: 发 (PRC) 發 (TW) and, if my memory ain't faining me, the upper part of TW version with a 无 underneath it -- that would be the japanese version. Many other simplifications are the same like in China - 学, for example...

Although I don't speak Japanese and haven't learned it, I feel that japanese simplification is much less "damaging", so to say, to the poor characters, because it at least allows them to keep some resemblance to the traditional version.

I had to switch from the traditional characters to the simplified ones, and it was way too confusing, bacause simplifying a radical is one thing, but completely redrawing a character - that's evil! recognising 语 as a form of 語 is fine with me, but no way is anyone gonna find a resemblence between 于 and 於.

As to reading ancient texts in simplified characters, as someone mentioned, i don't think it's a good idea. Especially reading poetry.

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skylee

It is 発.

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klortho

I'm a fairly new learner of Chinese -- my character repertoire is somewhere around 700 -- and my opinion is that simplification was an amazingly good thing.

I use Wenlin to study, and time after time, when I read the etymologies of the characters that have been simplified, I think to myself: well, that simplification makes a lot of sense. In a few cases, I'll admit, I've noticed that the semantic part of a xingshengzi gets clobbered, which makes the character harder to remember, but those are the exceptions.

There have been a lot of arguments on this thread in favor of TC that I just don't agree with. For instance, in a post a while back, someone said that TC aren't really that much harder to write, because they are usually written in a cursive style anyway, which blurs the strokes together. Either that, or they're written on computer.

But, remember, the cursive style is only possible after you've learned to write them stroke-by-stroke in the first place. I think most Chinese adults don't remember (they've probably blocked it out) how difficult characters are to learn. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it takes thousands of hours of practice. Children might learn them more quickly than adults, but it still takes thousands of hours, writing each character over and over. I think anything that can speed that process is a good thing.

Also, I've heard many times people say that traditional characters are more aesthetically pleasing than simplified. I just don't get it. In general, I have found that the simpler the character, the more I like it.

Even for an ugly character like "应", I find that that simplified version looks nicer than the traditional, "應", which to me looks like an angry blob.

I printed out below a few of the simplified and traditional characters from my character frequency chart, and in each case, I just think the simplification makes eminent sense.

simplified: 实只长与两样进机点头问无间

traditional: 實隻長與兩樣進機點頭問無間

Also, certainly for small font sizes, the simplified must be easy to read. With lots and lots of strokes, all the characters start to look like square smudges of ink. I guess there must be cases where more than one traditional character was smashed into the same simplified character, in which case there would be additional potential for ambiguities. But I don't think (and I'm talking out of my ass here, granted) that those cases, and the cases where characters look similar (车东乐) overwhelm the advantages of more space between the strokes, with regards to legibility. I could be wrong. I'm curious to see if studies have been done -- it would be an easy enough thing to measure.

I googled "literacy china", and came up with a lot of pages claiming that literacy here has skyrocketed over the last decade. I've heard before that China has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. But it would be hard to know what portion of that is from simplification, or from other measures that the government has instituted.

Finally, I've read a few posts where people say that China should abolish simplified characters. Well, it's time to smell the coffee: that's never going to happen. There is no turning back -- an entire generation has grown up learning them, and they are entrenched in the infrastructure.

Just a final note: I'm no fan (at all) of the Chinese government, but I think this was one thing they did right.

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shiaosan

Klortho, that is an excellent post! :mrgreen:

Just another thought on people claiming SC isn't as pretty as TC because less of strokes.

I heard this pretty often especially when people were discussing brush calligraphy. The truth is the simplest character is ' 一 '. It has only one stroke. And most people agree that this is the most difficult character to write in brush calligraphy. If you can write 一 well, you really write well. The conclustion here is whether a character is pretty or not, it is largely due to people, not the number of strokes.

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atitarev

These comparisons between traditional and simplified have been raised so many times now. One thing is for sure - there's no turning back in mainland China, most foreign learners prefer to learn simplified characters if they learn Chinese for practical reasons (for communication), because it's used by the overwhelming majority of Chinese (nearly 1.3 bln vs (probably greatly exaggerated) 200 mln people [corrected] ) in mainland China anyone using TC is in minority and it's changing rapidly. That's the main reason why to learn simplified - used by majority and is considered standard.

Mainland is going to simplify even more characters, anything that takes too much effort to learn and write by hand might - 餐厅 (TS: 餐廳) will become 歺厅 (an unauthorized simplification but very common). Neither mainland Chinese or Japanese don't seem to be too worried about not being able to read ancient/archaic texts. Useful texts have all been republished anyway, if not, but there's interest, they will be. TC are more tyring for the eyes (to read) and hands (to write). It's especially noticeable if you have to read/write a lot. If you do calligraphy for a couple of characters it's a different story.

The esthetic appeal of TS is questionable - it's a matter of personal taste too. I like 学 much more than 學, 国 more than 國.

Simplification and methods make perfect sense if it's studied and understood. Some people quote 广, 龙, 兴 as ugly, I don't see anything ugly about them, Latin characters must be very ugly to you - so few strokes, so easy to write. :)

People ask why change the radical 言 in 语? TC have also shorthands for other radicals, as long as you know what it is, I don't see any problem.

Overseas Chinese community increasingly switch to SC, as more immigrants arrive from mainland. New websites are increasingly in standard Mandard using SC. (e.g. the new Radio Australia site (has audio too) - http://www.abc.net.au/ra/mand/). I find it easier to find practice in Chinese. 8)

I am not imposing my opinion on people who decided to use TC, I would love to learn both SC and TS but I think there's not enough hours in the day :).

EDIT:

Please don't get too emotional about my post - if you're too attached to TC, I saw a post saying "I would rather die than abandon the characters". It's just a discussion really. I know it's a poltical thing - Hong Kong and Taiwan vs mainland China. I don't want to mix politics here.

EDIT 2:

My observation is that many TS I see, if I want to know how to write them you have to increase the font and even knowing all the components, it's very unclear. The trend in PRC is to simplify the characters with too many components/strokes, so you can at least see it clearly when published in a normal font, like in my example with 餐 - 歺, which has not been simplified but people use shorthands for it, anyway.

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chenpv
Please don't get too emotional about my post - if you're too attached to TC, I saw a post saying "I would rather die than abandon the characters".
i posted that in the thread discussing 'character vs pinyin'. these two topics might be similar but i think i should make it clear. :) atitarev, its ok.
The trend in PRC is to simplify the characters with too many components/strokes, so you can at least see it clearly when published in a normal font, like in my example with 餐 - 歺, which has not been simplified but people use shorthands for it, anyway.
actually, 歺 is regarded as 错别字 now. it is unacceptable in formal written chinese. :)

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