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THE STORY OF MY LEARNING CHINESE


self-taught-mba
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This whole business of not learning to write Chinese is just a bunch of nonesense PLAIN and SIMPLE. There is a good reason the Chinese people you have encountered were not very tolerant of it. Have you even TRIED considering the direct analogies to learning English in the same way, and how YOU would respond were you teaching -- even part-time at a school there ?

Two possibilities: the first (and this one doesn't match as well as the second) would be a Chinese student who wanted to learn English to a very high level, but insisted on using the phonetic system (a VERY artificial system that most Americans have by NO MEANS have mastered, just like ... pinyin ? YES.) in the American dictionaries' pronunciation guide to write. An example that hits even closer to home with the specific case of Chinese/Asia is the books available in Xinhua books stores which teach oral English without forcing the user to spend countless hours slaving over the ridiculous task of learning English's native alphabet and let them take a short cut directly to learning to speak, 嗖,得 炸素特 忒如 拆你组 皮普如 好

图 色以 挖土 得 玩土 一呢 大 拆你组 阿了父辈特。 So how would you treat a Chinese student who attended your English class, and knowing that you are familiar with the readings of these characters, insisted that he wanted to focus on his speech and so would write all his eassys in this manner ?

It's one thing if you are hell-bent on acting this way, but it is quite another if you wish to complain when people don't respond favorably.

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I know you're not asking me, but it's an interesting thought. If English was written in Martian symbols and we needed the phonetic Dictionary alphabet to input these thousands of alien symbols onto a computer anyway, then maybe I would look at things differently. Or maybe not, maybe I would be bitter because I had to spend so much time learning these symbols myself and I would be mad if some foreigner thought he could get away with not going through the same pain I did.

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I am learning to read and write characters, but I'm doing it for fun and I know it's slowing me down compared to not bothering with that.

I think it's important to be able to read, and to be honest I'm finding that easy. Maybe because I'm learning to write, too; I'm not sure. However, I very rarely do "real" writing (pen and paper stuff) nowadays except to practice writing my chinese characters!

I can type chinese quite happily on my PC using pinyin and, as I can read, I know if the software has made the correct match or not.

I reckon it's perfectly possible to become good at speaking and reading without knowing how to write. All my Taiwanese friends are perfect in their mandarin skills. Many of my Singaporean friends have forgotten how to write a lot of the characters and a couple of them have difficulty reading as well now.

It really depends on you, personally. Why do you need to write? Do you enjoy writing? Will you feel more "complete" if you can write? I would answer No, Yes, Yes to those questions and hence I'm learning to write.

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My english handwriting is so bad anyway (although my spelling is pretty good) that no one apart from me can read it. It might as well be hieroglyphics, or some sort of chinese-phonetic-pinyin-type-thing :) Imagine trying to type English using bopomo *shudder*

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This whole business of not learning to write Chinese is just a bunch of nonesense PLAIN and SIMPLE. There is a good reason the Chinese people you have encountered were not very tolerant of it.

I am learning to write--on the computer:mrgreen: , where 95% of my writing is spent.

Have you even TRIED considering the direct analogies to learning English in the same way, and how YOU would respond were you teaching -- even part-time at a school there ?

Don't think that is a direct analogy.

the ridiculous task of learning English's native alphabet and let them take a short cut directly to learning to speak

P.S. May be w/out internet for a week or so

"ridiculous task" how so? all 26 letters in our alphabet??.

It's one thing if you are hell-bent on acting this way, but it is quite another if you wish to complain when people don't respond favorably

Read my posts--they mislead me and I am learning communication (which in this day means computer more than hand-writing)

and let them take a short cut directly to learning to speak

Is this a bad thing? I have parents to take care of soon. I have to make tradeoffs. I'm glad for you that you have lots of time. Others and me don't.

Your analogy is way off read more here: http://www.pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html

We have an alphabet.

Chinese is not English and vice versa. We don't force our students to learn calligraphy, but if we did I wouldn't mind him not doing it and printing/typing his essays instead. (This is actually a closer analogy for modern day foreign professionals/workers)

Furthermore, why have the chinese characters been simplified several times over? Was it for esthetics? Or for increased simplicity/ease of use for most people most of the time? "for most people most of the time" is a key point. Because for"for most people most of the time" (foreigners) typing is the most expedient way to communicate and I proffer is the next revision in the language as computers play an ever increasing role in our lives.

The same even for english alphabet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_alphabet

Next poster had good points:

If English was written in Martian symbols and we needed the phonetic Dictionary alphabet to input these thousands of alien symbols onto a computer anyway, then maybe I would look at things differently.

That's right. Need pinyin anyway.

maybe I would be bitter because I had to spend so much time learning these symbols myself and I would be mad if some foreigner thought he could get away with not going through the same pain I did.

Ya know, I've resisted saying this for awhile. But I think there's a lot to this statement. I saw the same thing with hazing in the military and then in a fraternity. My "taking a shortcut" doesn't de-value what you did/are doing although I think many think so. "I had to work hard--why can't they". It's not a contest. And I explicitly stated I'm not knocking those that want the more traditional approach.

Ya know. . . we could all go back to writing letters by mail instead of using e-methods like this forum to exchange ideas. By hand, using calligraphy, carried by horseback on the pony express. I will offer my address to anyone on this forum that wishes to correspond w/ me in this manner. I'll see how many takers there are. [before forums/internet became mainstream there were those that said it was a "shortcut", a cheapening of human interaction . . . Before that some even said the same about the telephone. Don't believe me? Look it up at your library. Old newspaper/journal articles. Of course when you do please insist on using the old Dewey-decimal card system--the way I learned it. Tell the librarian you don’t want this "new fangled" computer assisted database searching—it’s a shortcut (which I actually remember librarians professing) And don't drive there either. "Only lazy people would drive" said literature in the earlier days of the automobile. ] Ok being a little facetious here, but trying to make a point.

PS Might not have internet for a little while--traveling

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I can see maybe if you don't live in China not learning to write would be acceptable, but there are enough situations when you live here that require at least rudimentary writing skills that not learning to write seems foolish.

For instance, a few days ago I needed to open a new bank account (new job required that I have a Communications Bank account to get my direct deposit). Had I not been able to fill in the form myself I would have had to either 1. get my wife (a native speaker) to write all the information I would need and ask the clerk to do it, or 2. take my wife with me. Both of them are acceptable I suppose, but I like being able to actually do things on my own...

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I don't know... recently it seems like quite a bit (the bank example I mentioned, contracts for work and apartment, registering my residence with the PSB, etc.). I'll accept that it doesn't come up often, but it's enough that I would be pretty frustrated if I couldn't do it. It could well be a personality thing, I'm just saying...

I also use learning to write as a mnemonic reading aid. There are still a lot of characters I can read that I can't write (writing certainly comes later, and takes more time), but if I can write it I can always read it, whereas if I can only read it there is a much larger chance I'll either forget it or recognize it incorrectly (particularly when it's very similar to another character).

Personally, I think that a person should use whatever method for learning that works for them, and if a person thinks that the cost/benefit of learning to write isn't worth it then they shouldn't do it. I'm just saying for me, this is how I think, and if asked I would recommend learning all aspects of the language.

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Fair enough - I'm happy to look dumb and ask for help in that situation. The way I think of it is, I can spend that time learning to write, which will help me a handful of times a year, or learning to speak better, which will help me a handful of times a day. Or more realistically, I can spend my time watching DVDs, and avoid both spoken and written interaction.

I agree also that writing aids reading - you develop a much better awareness of the structures of characters, and whatever visual or other skills are important in learning to read are bound to get a lot more practice.

Have you perhaps just moved job and city? Sounds like you've done a lot of contract signing recently :wink:

Roddy

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Ok maybe last post for awhile--gotta prepare to leave--really:mrgreen:

But .. . for the record. I think students should learn to at least copy a character down when they see it. That is what I do in those few (also living in China) cases (very few)when I have to write. I look it up in dictionary/palm pilot and then copy it. Or just write out on palm then show it to them.

As for the banks well. . . I think most people would find it worthwhile to learn to fill out rudimentary forms (I am not saying that absolutely no writing is best--just more balanced approach). Although along with Roddy, I must say that I can not recall a single time that I had to write. In most cases I get by by explaining/talking and ask for help if need be. I don’t like to ask for help but I know that if I spent all this time on writing I would still need to ask for help anyway b/c my speaking would be so poor. Eventually, I want to be able to write(man4 man4 lai2), but that is not a priority which is always my point—priorities.

The most influential people in forming my opinion are overseas Chinese/classmates (and younger somewhat). They pretty much told me “don’t waste your time”. I gave a few examples I think in my posts. Another: My 2nd roommate who worked for Ernst and Young China (one of the world’s most famous international accounting and consulting firms) said that in 4 years he had to write by hand twice!!! (he was Chinese) He told me too: get there, get decent orally, then reading / typing. He said for him typing was more than sufficient (think how many times your boss in the US will tell you to write a memo by hand?) and for a foreigner the expectation to write by hand is even lower.

I’ll agree, learning to write a character will help you read it. But many know how to read but not write (ABCs of Cantonese background come to mind). I will however write something out if it just won’t stick, but am very choosy in doing so because in general it is not cost-effective for me either. But like I always say, if you like to learn all aspects I am not holding you back or knocking that.

PS Congrats on the wife (I think we all know you really found the best way to learn - a nice girl :) )

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Quite a number of interesting topics in one thread. I have learned and tried to learn a fair number of languages, starting at school with English, German and French. In my early twenties, I soaked up Dutch and Spanish on my own. On university level, I have for one to three semesters tried seven more languages with varying success (nowhere near fluency in any of those so far). And, at 62, I still don't know how I learn or how I translate (that's my profession).

Among those six university languages, I'm now concentrating on Chinese. The beginning was a general interest in South and East Asian cultures, and trying something really different from European languages and watching the learning/translating aspects.

So far, despite the heritage of Bernhard Karlgren, Chinese has been a neglected language where I live. One (1) teacher, native Swede but very competent and a super teacher. Now the school of economics has chipped in, so this semester, there were far more applicants than could be accomodated.

We're low on conversation. The teacher concentrates on reading comprehension, grammar and character structure. His reasoning is that to be fluent orally, we should get a solid base at home and then go to China. For speaking and listening, I hope that a former study mate will be available full time in the near future...

Regarding French, I had a feeling in Paris (OK, long ago) that people wanted me to speak at least as good as they themselves before they understood me. Nowadays, and far from the capital, I think that it's more like saying "Bonjour", and everybody will appreciate your efforts and try to understand.

When in India for a month and a half on a Hindi course (Fell ill. Didn't learn very much.) I tried to greet people in the smallish town according to their respective religions. That made quite a difference in attitude, even if everybody was very friendly from the beginning.

Back to Chinese studies:

Disclosure: Since I originally wrote this, I have decided and worked to start my own school. (a subsequent post will explain this) I am not here to bash the competition, but as a customer I have my right to voice my opinion and I refuse to give that up even if I do start something on my own. Apparently, as I recently discovered from this web site: Study Chinese in China - Opinions and Feedback - A Review of WorldLink Education ( http://www.worldlinkedu.org/ ), I am not the only person that has been dissatisfied.

Another former study mate of mine, fluent in spoken Cantonese, had intended to take two semesters in Beijing with WorldLink. She has sent me several rather vitriolic comments on teachers, organization, study material and students. When she collected her 1st semester certificate, it stated that she knew 500 characters. When leaving Sweden, after our 2nd semester, she must have known 1000 to 1500. An American at the school office thought 500 was many for a foreigner. Well, that was the last straw. My friend had the number struck from the records, and quit.

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