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TheWind

Considering not learning to write --- looking for input

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Luxi

Here comes the nostalgia interlude...

 

When I first studied Mandarin, IME and computer input were too expensive for most students and only available in college, when and if a free work station with the right software could be found. Handwriting was the only option, and this meant hours and hours of it.

 

I don't know if it was the same for everybody, but handwriting practice brought body memory into play for me - I didn't just conceptualize and memorize the strokes and components of a character, much of the practice was my hand assimilating the moves. As a result, I was able to write Chinese quite fast, the hand went ahead on auto-pilot. That was really useful when it came to writing essays in exams, there were mistakes in my papers but not necessarily more than when typing. I can't imagine writing so fast using computer input, though it's probably possible with practice. I also ended up knowing quite a large number of characters and being able to recognize them in print quite fast. Sometimes if I couldn't remember a character, copying it helped me remember its meaning. I think I payed a lot more attention to the characters studying them this way, and therefore memorized them better than using digital writing and even cards. Though that may depend on how one gets used to study from the beginning.

 

What I'm trying to say is: don't dismiss handwriting as a waste of time. It can be quite helpful and, perhaps, by engaging you more, it enhances learning. 

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Shelley
3) You will have something on your CV that might just help get you the job.

 

Which job, exactly? For 99%* of even those jobs which directly involve Chinese, you won't need to handwrite. Sure, any skill looks good on your CV in a general sense, especially a skill which requires hard work and dedication to perfect... but I'm finding it difficult to imagine a scenario in Chinese handwriting would be the deciding factor.

 

*Made-up statistic

 

 

I said might.

 

Between a CV with and without it might tip the balance.

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realmayo

How much effort would it take to learn how to write from memory 3000 characters? 30 mins a day? 60 mins a day? And then after a couple of years of doing that, how much time would you need to spend writing in order to avoid forgetting them? 30 mins a day? Longer? For at least another couple of years. Or perhaps 10 years. Otherwise what's the point of memorising them if you're just going to forget them.

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eddyf

How much effort would it take to learn how to write from memory 3000 characters? 30 mins a day? 60 mins a day? And then after a couple of years of doing that, how much time would you need to spend writing in order to avoid forgetting them? 30 mins a day? Longer? For at least another couple of years. Or perhaps 10 years. Otherwise what's the point of memorising them if you're just going to forget them.

 

I started doing handwriting flashcards about 9 months back and went through all the characters up through HSK 5 (1600 - 1700 characters). Then I stopped adding new cards and just continued reviewing the existing ones. According to my stats on Pleco, I estimate that I've spent 40-50 hours on it total, and these days I have to spend 5-10 minutes a day maintaining it (and due to the nature of SRS, the amount of time I spend maintaining it will keep decreasing over time). Note that I could already read all these characters before this so I only had to learn to recall actively what I already knew passively.

 

I don't know how much more effort would be required to go up to 3000 characters or what sort of review I'll have to do 2 years from now to maintain it. But this should give an idea. Learning to write by hand when you already know how to read isn't really that hard in my experience. 

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Flickserve

How much effort would it take to learn how to write from memory 3000 characters? 30 mins a day? 60 mins a day? And then after a couple of years of doing that, how much time would you need to spend writing in order to avoid forgetting them? 30 mins a day? Longer? For at least another couple of years. Or perhaps 10 years. Otherwise what's the point of memorising them if you're just going to forget them.

I guess it boils down to a personal decision on self satisfaction or being able to differentiate yourself as literate/semi/illiterate plus that other thing about it helping memorise a word.

There is that intangible "that foreigner is really impressive" factor - a person from overseas who not only speaks and reads Chinese (of which there are many) but can also write Chinese. Would you gain warmer acceptance when meeting people? Easier to initially develop 關係?

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querido

Well, realmayo asked a rhetorical question and eddyf provided one person's answer, and it looked pretty good to me.

 

What's next?

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realmayo

Several years ago I got up to 2500-3000 characters that I could write from memory. But the lower frequency cards were the killer, they ended up taking so much time on flashcard reviews that I gave up, and that was before getting to my target of 3200 or whatever characters. I tried again not too long ago but ran into the same problem. I had better things to spend my time on.

 

Even so, I guess right now I could write maybe 1000 from memory. But 1000 is nothing! 3000 is probably a bare minimum target if you want to be able to handwrite.

 

And that's not flashcards, but being able to write characters fluently under some kind of pressure. That then realistically involves cursive writing, which is more effort required. Because writing assumes you are going to be read by someone. And you don't want to write slowly, nor do you want your writing to look like that of a six-year old.
 

I guess it boils down to a personal decision on self satisfaction or being able to differentiate yourself as literate/semi/illiterate.

 

The principles of writing are important, hence the value in learning a few hundred. Learning 3500, in my opinion, becomes simply a test of memorisation skills, with no real 'language' benefit unless you are actually hand-writing regularly in real life. If you're not actually hand-writing regularly in real life, then you'll forget most of the characters you've learned. Or, you're committing yourself to flashcarding them for the rest of your life. Which is ... well ... just a memorisation exercise.

 

 

Edit: but if I'd got my reading/listening/speaking to a level where I could function happily in say a Chinese office environment, or a Chinese lecture hall, and if in that environment hand-writing looked like being a useful skill, then of course I'd put the effort back in and develop that skill nice and quickly. But not at an earlier stage and not at the expense of reading/listening/speaking/typing.

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Flickserve

Sure. It requires practice to maintain. No different from any other skill outside of Chinese. Good, I am glad we agree on that fact.

Let's transpose your analogy a little further away from Chinese on utility. People play sports all the time, they train, they get coached, they learn. Then they stop or reduce it. Did they waste their time and money and effort? Some don't even do competitive sports. If you are not going to be doing a competition, why even bother learning or enjoying a sport?? Perhaps that goes a bit too far, here's another question. Why do people learn a language which is totally different to theirs but have never visited the country nor cannot go there? They have wasted their time, right? Any opportunity cost is very individual? Granted you spent a lot of time in memorisation of many words. Would you have utilised that time better in other pursuits?

As you might have guessed, I do (or did) a lot of competitive sports. I have no long lasting legacy from it. Any money earnt from it is paltry to the amount of time and money I have spent on it. If I had not done sports, would my languages be better? Not sure. I might have played more video games though. :-)

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realmayo

Sure. It requires practice to maintain. No different from any other skill outside of Chinese.

 

 

I think it is different. If an English speaker learns how to speak French or Vietnamese, say, and also learns how to write, then 'maintaining' that ability requires far far less effort than maintaining the ability to write Chinese. Say you speak good French, you type it on your computer all the time, and occasionally write a note to a friend. How much extra effort is it to maintain that note-writing ability? Minimal. But for Chinese -- not minimal.

 

For me, that difference is why writing Chinese is a low priority when set against other Chinese language skills.

 

 

I'm not saying memorising characters is a waste of time in all circumstances. Just that there may well be better uses for that time, in many circumstances.

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eddyf

Several years ago I got up to 2500-3000 characters that I could write from memory. But the lower frequency cards were the killer, they ended up taking so much time on flashcard reviews that I gave up, and that was before getting to my target of 3200 or whatever characters. I tried again not too long ago but ran into the same problem. I had better things to spend my time on.

 

That's what I was afraid of, since I haven't tried learning to write the lower frequency characters yet. But overall the advice I would give people is to not rule out handwriting completely. Take some time to learn to write the most frequent characters and then keep expanding how many you've learned, in frequency order, until it gets too hard or time consuming or you just don't feel like going further. It's the same thing as every kind of vocabulary study I guess.

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Angelina

I regret spending the time I spent studying Chinese, memorizing characters is 真无聊, never tried to memorize any characters

OP, if you are a beginner and you find having to memorize Chinese characters boring, good news, you don't have to learn Chinese. You can try to read some Chinese books in your free time, and chat with your Chinese friends in Chinese, but you don't have to speak fluent Chinese, make a career out it, and so on. The sooner you understand what you really want, the better.

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Shelley
I regret spending the time I spent studying Chinese, memorizing characters is 真无聊, never tried to memorize any characters

 

 

Sad.

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Angelina

It is not sad, I am just not that passionate about Chinese. Not everyone has to learn Chinese.

Unfortunately, if someone wants to become proficient in Chinese (and work as a translator), this person will have to learn handwriting. Not making it a priority is fine, delaying it for a while is fine, but eventually you will have to do it. It is better to understand this after 1.5 years of Chinese than after 5.5 years.

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Shelley

I agree not everyone has to be passionate about learning chinese or want to. I just though it was sad that you regretted it. If you had spent some time learning chinese and then stopped without regretting it then it wouldn't seem like a waste of time and therefore not sad.

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Angelina

You live you learn.

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Chris Two Times

Shelley,

 

I enjoy learning and writing characters too.

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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Demonic_Duck

So far people have made a decent case for learning to read handwriting as a useful skill in a Chinese or partly-Chinese workplace, but that's a different (if closely related) skill. Handwriting yourself is never going to be the only option, unless you're planning on leaving passive-aggressive notes. Email or face-to-face is almost always a better choice.

Again, I don't think people shouldn't learn to handwrite. But the OP's concerns seem like they're grounded in what will directly help them in the workplace, in which case they can safely deprioritise handwriting for the time being.

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Angelina

They can deprioritize handwriting now, and a few years later be: "what am I doing with my life"

Most adult Chinese people type instead of handwrite, yet, if anyone is seriously considering a career as a Chinese translator, avoiding handwriting is not a good idea (you will eventually have to learn it, even if that is not your strength). You can be working as an engineer, and learn Chinese on the side in order to write love songs to your Chinese partner. In that case, not making handwriting a priority is a good idea. If OP dislikes handwriting that much, they should reconsider their choices. Better make the decision now than find yourself 30 years old, no money, no work experience.

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AdamD

These are the times I've written characters for anything other than fun:

- Exams (HSK, uni)

- On whiteboards

- On my phone when I've needed to find a shop/street name I'd seen but didn't know how to pronounce

- On a touchscreen directory at a shopping centre (same as above, and the directory had a handwriting option)

- On my phone, anywhere I've needed to look up a character when OCR is impractical (stroke order still matters a lot of the time)

- Filling in a 会员 application form at a bookshop

- In the air with my finger, usually when clarifying which character is in someone's name

- Leaving a note for cleaners in a hotel room

But I loved learning to write, so I didn't suffer excruciating pain.

If you really don't want to handwrite and the above scenarios are minimal for you, skip handwriting and focus on the conversational skills I'm still struggling with.

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