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Lu Xun on Characters

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Ian_Lee

Smith:

You are implying that British primary school system is better than that of Taiwan.

It all depends on how you measure it.

In international tests related to science and mathematics, secondary school students from Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong (who all learn Chinese characters) all score much better than their counterparts from phonetic countries like Britian.

Maybe UK system is better in producing J.K. Rowling.

But Taiwan's system is better in producing David Ho.

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roddy
we are talking on the hypothesis that phoneticization will free more resources to churn out more graduates of higher education.

I suspect we've taken a wrong turning here. I bought education in with

educated to as high a level as possible
- I never meant university education. In many parts of China, 'as high a level as possible' could mean completing middle school, or even elementary school.

Roddy

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smithsgj

> Mainland has at least advanced on the path of phoneticiation by hanyu pinyin and script simplification.

Taiwan uses bopomofo in the same way as pinyin is used on the mainland. Teaching simplified characters vs trad wouldn't free upmuch curriculum time anyway -- still thousands of chars to learn!

At least the spit in China is normal spit colour and not binlang red. I wouldn't say there's much between Taipei and say Shanghai in terms of civic mindedness, to be honest.

Do I think the UK primary school system is better? Is that a serious question? I don't know a single person here in Taiwan who would advise me to put my son through guo-xiao here. The kids are totally stressed out and have huge amounts of homework. They learn how to process around in neat lines, "respect their elders", write zillions of characters and recite Tang dynasty poetry and cheng-yu that they haven't got a hope in hell of understanding. They spend hours standing up on packed commuter buses and attending buxiban cram classes so they keep up with their peers. They have absolutely no life and absolutely no fun. This is no way to spend you childhood, in my opinion.

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Ian_Lee

Smithsgj:

May I remind you that in South Korea, the kids do not need to study Chinese characters at all (lately I heard that their Education Dept starts to revive the learning out of necessity).

In fact, the Koreans even brag that their phonetic system -- Hangul -- is even more scientific than the Roman alphabets.

But isn't the phenomenon you find in Taiwan as common as in South Korea?

The Korean kids need to go to cram school and study hard and also don't have much free time at all as the other kids in those Chinese characters studying countries.

So is Chinese character studying related to all those phenomena you mentioned?

I bet it is more related to some other factors -- i.e. study culture, parent's mentality etc.

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smithsgj

> Education Dept starts to revive the learning out of necessity

interested to know what you mean by this

> I bet it is more related to some other factors -- i.e. study culture, parent's mentality etc.

Well I can't seriously blame character learning for everything that lacks in Taiwan society! I don't know enough about Korea to be able to comment about the level of civic-mindedness there, which is where this bit of the discussion started: what do you think?

I was just making what I thought was a fairly uncontroversial assertion -- that if less curriculum time was spent on character learning (and I doubt you would dispute that it accounts for a lot of time), that time could be set aside for other purposes. The non-objective part of my assertion is that the "other purposes" are more important or useful than character learning (they might include training in citizens' rights and duties).

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skylee
> Education Dept starts to revive the learning out of necessity

interested to know what you mean by this

It's true. I have read something about it before, though I can't find the info now. From what I have read, one of the reasons is the confusion in legal matters caused by the large number of hangul with the same pronunciation. Another, from what I have observed during my recent trips there (well not so recent, the last one was in spring 2003), is that the country now has strong economic connections with China (tourism, industries, etc) and it is desirable to reintroduce hanja. In fact at major tourist spots, some of the road signs are written in Hangul, English, Traditional Chinese (=Hanja, suitable for Taiwan/HK/Japanese visitors), and simplified Chinese (suitable for PRC/Singapore visitors).

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smithsgj

Traditional Chinese (=Hangul, suitable for Taiwan/HK/Japanese visitors)

Hangul? A typo, but not sure what you meant.

Anyway what you say is interesting. ALso, if you send a letter to Korea, you can write it in Chinese and the Post Office have to figure it out and deliver it.

Korean can be readily written in Chinese characters, right? There are Hanzi newspapers, I think, or is that Vietnam (or are the papers *in* Chinese not Korean at all, for the huaqiao community?)

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skylee

OK I have found this -

Because of its greater variety of sounds, Korean does not have the problem of the Japanese written language, which some experts have argued needs to retain a sizable inventory of Chinese characters to distinguish a large number of potentially ambiguous homophones. Since 1948 the continued use of Chinese characters in South Korea has been criticized by linguistic nationalists and some educators and defended by cultural conservatives, who fear that the loss of character literacy could cut younger generations off from a major part of their cultural heritage. Since the early 1970s, Seoul's policy governing the teaching and use of Chinese characters has shifted several times, although the trend clearly has been toward writing in han'gul alone. By early 1990, all but academic writing used far fewer Chinese characters than was the case in the 1960s. In 1989 the Korean Language and Education Research Association, citing the need for Chinese character literacy "at a time when the nation is entering into keen competition with Japan and China" and noting that Japanese educators were increasing the number of Chinese characters taught in elementary schools, recommended to the Ministry of Education that instruction in Chinese characters be reintroduced at the primary-school level.

And also this and this.

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