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Johnny20270

Back to whether to hand write or not?

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Shelley
Let's not forget that Chinese all start with at least 5 years since birth of purely listening to Chinese before they even read or write anything.

 

Yes but they are children, and we are adults and are capable of learning to read, write, listen and speak at the same time.

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grawrt

I don't know if you'd find this any help but it suddenly dawned on me that all my work on practicing writing characters helped a lot for the test I took today. I found myself reading through the test quicker, and writing much more fluidly. I got trumped up on some easypeasy characters that I should know how to write, but for the most part it went well. Last semester, I was a MESS. I struggled with writing even the most simple things, I felt like reading took longer.

I didn't put too much effort into writing but I practiced these two drills. 1) writing characters during "down" time. Like when I felt like listenign to music or being unproductive, I'd practice writing new vocabulary. 2) dictation. I'd listen to anything, mostly things with subtitles or transcription and then practice writing it down from what I heard. Wasn't easy but I don't feel like it took too much out of my time in China. The times I wrote characters were usually really late in the day or really early.

 

Hope this helps. I'm still feeling pretty darn good with myself because I used to question whether or not I was wasting my time with writing.

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XiaoXi
Yes but they are children, and we are adults and are capable of learning to read, write, listen and speak at the same time.

 

I think you're missing my point. You could also learn to skateboard at the same time but it wouldn't help with anything. The point is all they NEEDED to do was listen to get beyond most foreigners ever do in spoken Chinese.

 

Of course as an adult you'd learn much, much faster than a kid would but you still cannot deny their method (not that they voluntarily chose it but still) is paramount.

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anonymoose

I don't think spending time learning to write should be seen as taking away time from learning other skills - I mean, it might do, but it really depends on how you organise yourself. The way I'd see it is that writing Chinese is a different activity to learning to listen, for example, and after listening for a while and needing a break, then I'd practise writing as a form of relaxation. If you weren't writing, you'd be doing something else, but you'd still need a break from your main studies.

 

I started learning Chinese as I was approaching my final exams at university. Conventional wisdom would say one should concentrate on exam preparation, and leave learning Chinese, which after all was just a hobby, until after the exams. However, I found that I could sharpen my focus on studying for finals if I periodically put all that aside, and studied Chinese instead, as a form of relaxation. It worked very well as I scored highly in the exams, as well as learning a lot of Chinese.

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Shelley
The point is all they NEEDED to do was listen to get beyond most foreigners ever do in spoken Chinese.

 

They had no choice, and very few foreigners get the total immersion situation that kids get. There has been a discussion before about this, there were some good points for both sides of the argument but I am on the side of we are not Chinese kids and we have to do it differently.

Anyway this is off topic, if you would like to continue this discussion we should start a new topic.

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XiaoXi

I'm not saying they did have a choice, the point is they achieved their goals extremely well so they didn't need writing to remember all the words. Like I said before, if you enjoy writing then good because it will lead to lots of viewing of characters and thus help you remember them. Particularly it will enable you to view characters over and over in detail. But the actual act of writing over and over again will not help you to recall a character when coming across it whilst reading, since like I said before, all words are stored in the brain as 'block' pictures. They're not broken down. For example the word 'station' is not accessed in your brain as 's t a t i o n' while reading, its simply accessed as a picture like this - 'station'. If I change it to this 'statoin' it just LOOKS wrong, we don't need to actually spell through it to see the mistake. But this is also the reason we often don't even notice typos like this because we see the word as a whole picture.

 

With Chinese is much the same, the fact you broke it down into many brush strokes and radicals is nice, but when reading you can only see all the characters as pictures. If writing characters gets you off your butt and looking at characters then by all means do it, if reading comics has the same effect then do that instead. Whatever motivates you to learn.

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anonymoose
all words are stored in the brain as 'block' pictures

 

This is probably true for most people, but an interesting question is, how did it get to be like that? I actually don't have an answer, but I would contend that many people go through a stage of deconstructing words/characters before they establish the complete "block picture" repertoire.

 

I remember when I was taught to read English, we started from sounds of individual letters, then how they combined to form syllables, and then how these syllables joined to form complete words. That way, I was able to read words I had never met before, provided, of course, that they had regular spelling. Only after years of exposure do I now (presumably) store words in my mind as "block pictures".

 

Would learning to read by learning words directly as "block pictures" be a quicker way to learn? I don't know. I kind of suspect that it may lead to faster reading speeds (I read slowly). I did notice that some young Chinese students (~6 years old) were learning simple English words like this (but, in that particular instance, they were by no means learning efficiently).

 

So, in summary, I think that writing by hand would be beneficial to learning to read, because the awareness of characters at the stroke level, and repetition thereof, would help to consolidate their forms in the mind. Whether this is more beneficial than, say, not doing so, is something I cannot comment on.

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Shelley
the actual act of writing over and over again will not help you to recall a character when coming across it whilst reading,

 

I disagree.

 

It has recently been shown that as long as the first and the last letter of a word is in the right place you can recognise the word. So arpnpalety this is understandable, but we must have learnt the word apparently correctly to be able to recognise it jumbled up.

 

Well said anonymoose, you have explained that very clearly.

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AdamD
But the actual act of writing over and over again will not help you to recall a character when coming across it whilst reading

 

But it does. It actually does. It might not for you but it does for some of us.

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Flickserve

Handwriting supports development of orthographic sensitivity and recall of characters (Xu, Chang, Zhang, and Perfetti, 2013). However, writing might not be immediately useful to beginners. It is more useful to begin handwriting after one can recognize many components and some characters (周, 1999).

I tried to look up the article of Xu et al 2013. The abstract is quite poor. There is no mention of study design nor data to back up the conclusions. I don't have access to the full article.

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somethingfunny

I can't help feeling that the "Do I need to learn characters?"/"Do I need to learn tones?"/"Do I need to learn stroke order?" debate is just people looking for a shortcut.  If you've got limited time then sure, maybe stroke order, then writing, then reading aren't going to be top of your priority list.  But I don't think anyone should kid themselves, once you remove any part of the language then you are no longer learning the language as a whole.  If your goal is to order food in a chinese restaurant or say a few lines of mandarin as a kind of party trick, then sure don't worry about characters.  But if you're goal is to learn the Chinese language, then as soon as you decide to not learn characters, you are no longer working towards that goal.

 

Anyway, personally I feel that being able to associate characters with multiple homophones helps massively in my comprehension of Chinese.  And reading something written in pinyin is a complete nightmare.

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XiaoXi

This is probably true for most people, but an interesting question is, how did it get to be like that? I actually don't have an answer, but I would contend that many people go through a stage of deconstructing words/characters before they establish the complete "block picture" repertoire.

 

I remember when I was taught to read English, we started from sounds of individual letters, then how they combined to form syllables, and then how these syllables joined to form complete words. That way, I was able to read words I had never met before, provided, of course, that they had regular spelling. Only after years of exposure do I now (presumably) store words in my mind as "block pictures".

 

Yes it doesn't matter how you get there but in the end they are just pictures of words. Its not 'most people', that's just how the human brain stores words. When you come across a word you don't know, a different part of your brain will use its knowledge of spelling and as you say, the phonetics you learnt to try and figure out how to say it.

 

Would learning to read by learning words directly as "block pictures" be a quicker way to learn? I don't know. I kind of suspect that it may lead to faster reading speeds (I read slowly). I did notice that some young Chinese students (~6 years old) were learning simple English words like this (but, in that particular instance, they were by no means learning efficiently).

 

It depends how they're stored in your brain. I noticed not too long ago that I was recognising words by only one of the characters in a two character word. If I saw they character I wasn't so familiar with on its own then I wouldn't recognise it. So its important to be very familiar with the look of a character, and not just having a rough idea of what it looks like in your head. I think many of us have only a rough idea of certain English words, or for some people a LOT of English words which leads to bad spelling.

 

I disagree.

 

It has recently been shown that as long as the first and the last letter of a word is in the right place you can recognise the word. So arpnpalety this is understandable, but we must have learnt the word apparently correctly to be able to recognise it jumbled up.

 

If what you said is true then in the future when the pen and paper truly are put to rest, nobody would ever be able to learn how to read and type. You DO have to learn the word correctly to recognise it, but you don't necessarily have to do it by writing and its not the act of writing that helps you. Writing is a muscle, motor movement which will not be accessed by your brain whilst reading through a text. It may have helped you remember the words but only because you were looking at the words carefully over and over.

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Johnny20270

ok, back from yet another suspension ... :lol: 

 

 

 
You DO have to learn the word correctly to recognise it, but you don't necessarily have to do it by writing and its not the act of writing that helps you

 

 

 

I agree mostly but the actually act of writing did reinforce it much more deeply that simply recognition via anki /text reading, 

 

 

Ok I have had about 10 days trial at handwriting and my conclusion thus  far is that, although its a very good technique for remembering hanzi, seeing components of characters and commonality across characters (many characters I was previous unaware shared the same individual character) , the shear effort and time required is not justified if my goal is to simply recognize characters over a long run, i.e. type & read etc

 

I definitely had no time a lot of other activities and had to be out of hold. My listening is very bad too and I think its far better for me to spend more time of this than writing

 

The other factor that is considerable is that although initially its nice to finally be able to write I can see it becoming mind numbly boring after months. I doubt if I would have the enthusiasm to keep persisting

 

Actually its a bit of a problem in that i can never do any homework for the teacher as I can't hand write so can only type and print or email it to her. 

 

Thanks all

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Shelley
Writing is a muscle, motor movement which will not be accessed by your brain whilst reading through a text.

 

I disagree, for me the characters I have practised writing a lot are definitely easier to recognise when I am reading.

 

To me it seems obvious that this would be the case, because as you say

It may have helped you remember the words but only because you were looking at the words carefully over and over.

 

I can't think of anything else, apart from writing, that makes you look carefully at the characters over and over, because you have to know it stroke by stroke and you get to know the characters inside out as it were.

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Flickserve

Because I sometimes write Chinese on whatsapp etc, I find I am forever looking up words on pleco.

I think the writing does help reinforce the word recognition.

However, the next step of writing a word correctly on paper takes a lot more effort.

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XiaoXi

I agree mostly but the actually act of writing did reinforce it much more deeply that simply recognition via anki /text reading,

Yes, I said it does but not for the reason you think it does.

 

I disagree, for me the characters I have practised writing a lot are definitely easier to recognise when I am reading.

Yes....because of the reason I gave.

 

I can't think of anything else, apart from writing, that makes you look carefully at the characters over and over, because you have to know it stroke by stroke and you get to know the characters inside out as it were.

Yes its certainly a method, which is why some people do that but others have other ways of doing it. Some people use flashcards which involve looking at the characters carefully. Especially when similar looking characters are compared.

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Aphorisme

I'm still shocked that some people learn chinese without learning how to handwrite. It's just being illiterate. I could never say "yes I study chinese" if I was not learning how to write. I mean, if you really study a language, you study it in its globality. I would never call myself fluent if i wasn't able to write, but it seems like for most students learning how to write is outdated and a loss of time since you can type. Handwriting is the hardest part in chinese, so avoiding it is avoiding the main difficulty. Not learning how to handwrite reveals a certain mentality. I would never hire someone who has been learning chinese for a long time if he didn't learn how to write. It shows that he avoids difficulties, and when someone calls himself fluent while he just trully is illiterate, it just proves to everyone that he has low standards. And people with low standards won't do much in life.

 

Disclaimer: it does not apply to people who have to learn chinese in a rush in like 6 months. But it does apply to people who have been studying chinese for a long time/ who plan to use their chinese to work in China.

 

Bottom line is, IMHO, yes, you should learn how to write.

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ChrisOei

I'm still pretty new at this, but so far I found that learning to write the most common radicals has helped my reading. At first, I avoided writing entirely, figuring I'd never need the skill, but I discovered I often mistook one character for another because I'd overlooked some tiny details. Learning to write stuff served as a way of checking to see if I remembered all the details, as opposed to just remembering enough ("that funny-looking stroke near the top") to distinguish it from the other characters I'd already learned.

 

I'm not sure I'm going to stick with it past the radicals, though. And some stuff like stroke order seems less than useful.

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imron
I'm still shocked that some people learn chinese without learning how to handwrite. It's just being illiterate.

As someone who generally agrees with the idea that people should learn handwriting to some degree, I just want to say that not learning handwriting is nothing like being illiterate. 

 

There are plenty of people who can read, type and text in Chinese and that would struggle with handwriting, but given that they never need to write by hand it doesn't prevent them in any way from being literate in their daily lives.

 

But anyway, yes, do learn some handwriting because it's useful and helps with other parts of learning.

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L-F-J

@Aphorisme,

 

I imagine some people may avoid learning to write by hand purely because it is difficult. But to say it's because their personality is to avoid difficulty in general and that they have low standards in life and basically call them losers... is way too judgemental and just insulting.

 

Most people I know who don't bother learning to write by hand much more beyond the essentials (like personal information) don't do so purely to avoid the difficulty, but because there is very little real-world return on the huge investment in would take to keep your handwriting up with your other skills. While as Imron pointed out, one can be just as literate in their daily lives as natives in the office, using characters to correspond through emails and texts. And on the rare occasion that they'd absolutely need to jot something down, most people with a high level in Chinese will be able to copy the characters well. But to be honest, it will very, very rarely if ever happen that one cannot just type.

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