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Hwong_DsiKiem

Tips on writing Hanzi

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Hwong_DsiKiem

Well since I already brought that up I might as well make a topic about this and hope that it can be of some help to some of you Chinese learners. I realized my teachers never told us these orthographic rules, but since most of them are written this way, we just have an instinct for it that allows us to write characters we've never learnt before.

 

A friend of mine learns Japanese, and he says he hates kanji because he needs to learn how to write every new character he learns in addition to its pronunciations and meaning, which "isn't something he has to worry so much about for a phonetic script like kana." And he thinks he will not be able to write characters he has never seen/learnt before.

 

I told him that he could actually just bear a few rules in mind:

common strokes of Chinese Handzi: 直橫點勾剔(not sure if that's the right word)丿瘌(not sure if that's the right word either):

vertical, horizontal, dot, hook, tick, leftwards sweep and rightwards sweep.

And the stroke order would mostly be:

write from top to bottom; left to right and outside to inside;

for a big 口, write the first three strokes, fill in what's inside, and then close the opening.

For an orthogonal cross like 十, always write the horizontal stroke first

For a 辵 radical, write the other part first, and then the boat.

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Hofmann

Whatcha talking about? It seems like stroke order instead of general writing.

 

In Mandarin the strokes are usually called 點橫豎鉤提撇捺斜. Corners are called 折 and curves close to 90 degrees are called 彎.

 

In individual components it is more useful to look at endpoints. Write strokes such that the endpoints occur left to right, top to bottom. Write structurally simple, more geometric things before other things that reference them.

 

And then there's this.

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sparrow

Nciku. Look up individual characters and it will show you stroke order.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroke_order

 

After a person has learned 25–100 characters, stroke order should very rarely ever be an issue.

 

If he has any questions, I'm sure he can post them here, to reddit, or some other forum.

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Ruben von Zwack

It does create a bit of interference for me sometimes, I studied Japanese way back, and got a formal introduction to stroke order, and now with Chinese I notice odd little things like 耳 are seemingly written differently.

 

Is there a comprehensive article somewhere that would explain the main differences between Japanese and Chinese stroke order? I guess the fact that there are more than one standard does not make this easier.

 

Hofmann, I did read the entry you linked, but I am afraid it's still a bit above my comprehension level.

Basically, I wonder when I come across things that are written differently, if I should stick to the way I'm used to, or re-learn.

 

If there was some article out there that explains the problem for (ambitious ;)) beginners, I'd be more than happy!

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sparrow

Stroke order rules are, I believe, meant to increase speed and legibility, so if you're following a standard—Japanese, Chinese, or otherwise—that's likely good enough. After all, I bet some Chinese people use Japanese stroke order here and there and vice versa, especially considering how personalized handwriting can be.

 

For example, I had one teacher whose handwriting (outside of class) often used interesting stroke orders. The one example I can clearly remember was 我 , and it looked like this. She uses the third horizontal of the hand radical to draw the horizontal of the halberd radical. Usually, you use the second horizontal of the hand radical for this.

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tooironic

Like any other skill, the process of mastering writing in Chinese involves learning all the rules and standards to the point that you're able to bend or violate them if you so desire.

 

Stroke order is not a fixed concept as some believe. In real life, native speakers often alter their stroke orders slightly on account of their personal preferences. Sparrow's example above is a good case in point. I have also seen my friends write the 走之旁 in 这, 达, etc. first instead of last as it should be according to convention. They claim it's easier to write it this way. I think this is justifiable if you already have a good foundation in writing in the first place. And you could probably find many more examples of this.

 

As for general tips about writing, the only real advice I could give is practice makes perfect. A cliche, but this holds very true for a physical skill like writing. In many cases this practice will involve learning by rote and drills. On top of that, feedback from an experienced teacher is invaluable. Try to learn how to write common characters properly, as this will avoid you developing fossilised mistakes which you will only have to struggle with later. One mistake I had been making for years was writing the component in 越 as 成 instead of 戉. This mistake is something I could only have discovered with the aid of a good teacher. Why they didn't just use the ultra-common character 成 instead of the extremely rare 戉 is beyond me. But that's hanzi for you. A challenge and an enigma at the same time.

 

Lastly, although it's true that writing is arguably the least practical of the four main skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing), you can rest assured that being able to write well can go a long way in improving your reading speed and comprehension. I plan on working more on my writing skills some time next year. Even being able to write half as good as an educated native speaker would make me very happy.

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Hofmann

Basically, I wonder when I come across things that are written differently, if I should stick to the way I'm used to, or re-learn.

Ruben von Zwack, if you learned the Japanese standard, I recommend you stick with it, while incorporating the changes in my blog post (and the first comment). That way you'll be writing completely correctly.

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sparrow
One mistake I had been making for years was writing the component in 越 as 成 instead of 戉.

 

I think many students care about this level of detail (including myself). However, it is not terribly important. Reading through quickly, even a Chinese person may not notice that you wrote 成 instead of 戉 , and many Chinese may actually make the same mistake.

 

An example of this:

A friend I had back in New York was this brilliant Chinese girl, top of the class, well-known among the Chinese social groups for her intellect and attention to detail. One time, I was looking at some Chinese she had written and noticed she had missed the horizontal line above the heart in 德. I pointed it out to her and she said, "I think you're mistaken. There is no 横 there." I conceded that she was probably correct, but I consulted a dictionary because I was quite sure—at the time, I always had a Chinese dictionary on hand. She was wrong. And her best subject in high school had been Chinese, not science or math (though she was very good at those).

 

It goes to show that small mistakes like stroke order or mixing up two very similar characters are mistakes even Chinese people make.

 

Of course, most of us will still split hairs when we study because we want to learn everything properly, but experiences like this puts things in perspective.

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sparrow

Did not know that! Thanks for pointing that out. :)

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skylee

I don't know much about this subject.  But for the traditional script there are different standards.  I have noticed that the Taiwan standard can be different from the Hong Kong standard.  Sometimes the differences can be quite significant, resulting in different stroke counts, and different shape of the same character.  Examples include 充 and 衛 etc.  The differences however rarely affect understanding.

 

Taiwan - http://stroke-order.learningweb.moe.edu.tw/characterQueryResult.do?word=%E8%A1%9B

HK - http://www.edbchinese.hk/lexlist_en/result.jsp?id=3677&sortBy=stroke&jpC=lshk

 

Taiwan - http://stroke-order.learningweb.moe.edu.tw/characterQueryResult.do?word=%E5%85%85

HK - http://www.edbchinese.hk/lexlist_en/result.jsp?id=0264&sortBy=stroke&jpC=lshk

 

I write 德 with a horizontal stroke.

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Hwong_DsiKiem

About 衛, I think you actually showed a variant there, which explains the difference. I've never learnt that variant despite the fact that I'm living there.

 

I was indeed talking about writing the kanji. But the thing is, my friend from Australia does not realize all these orthographic rules, so he complains about how learning a new kanji requires him to blindly remember the stroke orders, which add to the difficulty and "uses up his mind a lot so he cannot do other things". He was talking about Japanese kanji though, and not Chinese hanzi. So I just presented to him these rules, so he won't have to "blindly remember how to write a kanji every time he learns a new one", and it was also used as a counterargument to his point about "you cannot write a kanji you have never learnt before".

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skylee

Well, whether or not a form is regarded as a variant really depends on which standard you use.  The HK (edit - should be 衞) is kind of strange (but it was the form I learnt when I was a kid and I remember clearly that my teacher specifically told us that the middle part was not 韋.) and difficult to type as it is not used in Taiwan.  But it is the proper form in HK.  The HK Department of Health uses it, as can be seen in its Chinese website.  But I am not sure if it can be shown properly in people's computers.

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Hwong_DsiKiem

Umm... I am from HK, and I know I'm not seeing it as the standard. And you said the differences can be significant, so I just pointed out you actually put two different characters, if you may, for comparison, as I see the Taiwanese 衛 being shown as a variant character, and my input system also gives 衛 despite the fact that I'm typing with the "Hong Kong Canto" input system.

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skylee

Not sure I understand you.  But this is not important.

 

I was lazy.  This is the font used by HK government - 衞.  I will go back to amend the one in my previous post.

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sparrow

@Hwong_DsiKiem:

Out of curiosity, roughly how many kanji does your friend know, or at what level is his Japanese?

 

Let him know that a Chinese-Forum guy said that once he gets accustomed to writing kanji, he'll be able to write new ones he encounters about as easily as ones he's known forever—as long as he's used to some kind of stroke order standard.

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Ruben von Zwack

Hwong_DsiKiem, Is your Australian friend aware of components?

If he is aware that 隹 is a component and always written like this, and 艹 is another one, etc., it won't freak him out to memorise "banana" cause he will just have to memorise 3 components, and not 15 little strokes.

 

I am sure you can find such lists online and help your friend out with a link? I only know such lists for Chinese .
(Yes I am aware ... but still, for a beginner learning Japanese I guess it would be more convenient when it's 100% tailored to Japanese).

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Hofmann

It is popular for Japanese students to follow a national Kanji curriculum, which lists Kanji to be learned in each grade. I don't know if any public schools actually follow it though.

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Ruben von Zwack

I tried the different stroke orders with 必 on different platforms and noticed that nciku is completely different from both Hofmann's Japanese link and his modification on that, which can be expected, but, now this is the odd thing, it's also completely different from how the cursive on Imron's Hanzigrids looks like. If I follow nciku stroke order, my won't look anything like post-51349-0-67125800-1386854154_thumb.jpg (source: Hanzigrids).

Is nciku off?
http://www.nciku.com/search/zh/detail/%E5%BF%85/1300743

 

Or was I just picking a one-in-a-million character where no one agrees?

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