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Mandariniac

Benefits of Learning Traditional

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Mandariniac

Hello..

I started learning Madarin last year....and I decided to study Traditional ones because one of my teachers told me that once you master traditional, you can even read ancient books and its not that hard to adapt to using simplified..

But, I came to realize that I have been through a lot of troubles and pains learning to write and recognize traditional while all my firends are having fun learning simplified..

Should I stick to Traditional Chinese? What are the benefits I can get?

Please reply guys....Thanks..

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Ferno

Uh you're not going to be able to understand classical Chinese just because you know traditional characters. That's why Chinese people take courses in Classical Chinese.

The most obvious benefit to learning traditional characters imo is that the radicals and components of many simplified characters were changed in order to reduce the stroke-count, but then you lose a lot of the stuff that contributed to the meaning and helped you remember them.

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Jose

In my experience, learning traditional characters may seem more difficult at the initial stage of learning but, if you're serious about learning Chinese, the difficulty of either system is eventually more or less the same. This is because the components that have been simplified or simply removed from the most common characters tend to appear in less common characters at a later stage. So, for example, you may think that your friends have an easier task when learning 国 or 种 than you learning 國 or 種, but this is the case only as long as you have not come across the characters 或 and 重, which haven't been simplified themselves. As soon as you can identify both 玉 and 或 and 中 and 重, the difficulty is pretty much the same. Another case are the characters 远 and 园, based on the 元 character. The simplified forms may seem much easier than the traditional forms 遠 and 園, but, eventually, your friends who learn simplified will have to learn that combination of strokes when they learn the common surname 袁 or the character 猿 (ape), which haven't been simplified. Similarly, the character 讓 may seem daunting in comparison with the simplified 让, but if you learn simplified you will eventually come across those strokes in all the other characters pronounced rang, which have not been simplified.

So, in my opinion the difficulty of learning either system is eventually similar, even if the simplified system certainly seems easier when you learn your first hundred or so characters. One advantage of learning the traditional system is that it is easier to learn simplified if you know traditional than the other way around, and given the fact that traditional Chinese is still widely used, it is good to be able to at least read both systems. This is probably the main advantage, apart from personal preferences and circumstances. As Ferno said, learning classical Chinese is a completely different matter.

In my opinion, the simplification of characters was done for very good reasons by the communist authorities, but they were misled (like the Kuomintang government in 1934, or 35 or whatever) by a common misconception at the time: that the difficulty of characters is due to the high number of strokes. The difficulty of the Chinese writing system actually lies in the fact that there are thousands of characters, and reducing the number of strokes, while making characters faster to write, actually hinders the recognisability as many characters that used to be very different become very similar or are even coalesced into the same character. For example, I find it simpler to tell apart 廣 and 廠 than 广 and 厂, and I also find the traditional dragon character 龍 easier to identify than the simplified version 龙, which is confusingly similar to a few other unrelated characters. I think the simplification was decided at a time of revolutionary zeal when it was thought that traditional Chinese culture was in dire need of reform and the writing system was one of the victims of the excesses of the time. This may be irrelevant now as 1.3 billion people are used to reading and writing simplified Chinese, but don't be fooled by those who claim that simplified characters are much easier. In my experience (I'm Spanish, and I have learnt mostly simplified characters over the last ten years), traditional characters are not more difficult at all.

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Lugubert

For 1st and 2nd university semester Chinese in Sweden, I'm required to read and write simplifieds and trans- what? -scribe traditionals into simplifieds. It rather doubles the fun.

- For 3rd semester, I "only" have to translate texts (modern literature, newspapers etc.) in simplified characters.

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tuxoar

I think it is best to learn traditional first then convert to or even add on simplified. Yes, it may takes slightly longer to memorize traditional, but once you know them, it takes minimal time to learn the simplified forms because of the somewhat systematic and simple (no pun intended) simplifications. Put your time in, learn it well and you will be thankful in the end.

(and don't listen to your friends who may have only studied simplified and think they are so much better than you.)

~Tux

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psychopyko

I agree, learn Traditional, harder at first, but I think its worth it. (I'm learning it at the moment - well, trying). It's always easier to go from 'harder' to 'easier', so in a sense you'll probably take less time to learn Traditional -> Simplified compared to going the other way round.

Maybe not the best analogy...but its "easier" to learn how to drive a Manual, then go to Auto...as opposed to learning Auto, then learning Manual...

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wushijiao
Benefits of Learning Traditional

Learn traditional in order to read the subtitles on pirated DVD's. :mrgreen: I'm only half joking. I'd estimate that 70% or so of Chinese subtitles on the Mainland are in traditional. Right now I'm watching a Korean soap opera (屋塔房小猫) that only has trad, no simplified, no English, compresed disc 12 RMB for 3 discs. You'll miss out on these deals otherwise.

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Eulloba

I entirely agree with the illuminating views about the tremendous benefits of learning traditional characters. Of course you need to know simplified characters as well but you can do that with no effort when you learn both systems at the same time. You must give prevalence to traditional characters, because, as pointed out, they are the ones that make sense.

Simplified characters where developed by the wrong reasons: as a step to entirely do away with characters. The authorities thought it to be a great idea to substitute characters by the western alphabetic system of writing. The problem was that the had to make sure all the population could speak Putong Hua (to develop a unique transcription, of course). So the first step to achieve, they thought, was to simplify characters. The additional problem they created was that simplified characters are not simple, they are more difficult to learn that traditional ones because they do not make sense.

The aim of simplification was not to try to improve, or to "simplify" the characters. The aim was to eliminate characters via taking that preliminary step. The authorities did not put any care in trying to improve ways of learnig or etymological explanation of characters, etc.

To me, simplification has undoubtedly been of the the greatest tragedies of human kind. It was a reversal of Confucius "rectification of names", as a matter of fact it has been a "confusing of names".

Fortunately, this can be reversed, and I think it will be reverse. I meet an increasing number of Chinese people from mainland China that think that traditional characters will make a glorious come back, it is what I think, hope and expect.

As a matter of fact, simplified characters never succeeded. Past literature and writings for 2000 years are all over the place, not only in writings but also incribed in momuments, etc. And outside China, the great majority of Chinese never accepted simplification. The Chinese people are very practical, acceptance or refusal of simplification has never been a political issue. If simplification was an advatage, why had it to be imposed, why was it not accepted outside of China?

When Confucius said that if he had the power to run a state his first measure would be "the rectification of names". One of his students could not help but exclaim, what a silly thing to say!. But Confucius exponded on the far reaching and disastrous effects of a seemingly slight deviation in meaning. When the names of things are not correct, confusion and chaos ensue.

We must all strive for the beautiful and profound chinese characters, the traditional characters.

But we must not despair about simplification, I think, that for the moment, Chinese writing is much more interesting and fun, because thanks to simplification, the chinese writing system has been made still more difficult and complex: more characters to be learnt, what fun!!

Eugenio Llorente, from Madrid, Spain.

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fanghuzhai

You should learn to read and write simplified characters while learning to read the unsimpified ones. The best way is to use a textbook that has bi-character texts. This will speed up learning and also gives you fun in finding out how the characters are simplified.

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atitarev

I don't mean to be sarcastic but many opinions are - in order to learn simplified learn traditional first. Of course, you can learn the historical character for each of the characters and also learn how this character is pronounced/used in Cantonese, other dialects, Japanese and Korean. Extra knowledge is great if we talk about a few hundred characters, you have a lot of time on your hands but if your target is to learn a few thousand and master the Chinese grammar and the vocab, you probably want to concentrate just on one system - there's not enough time in the day. I also look up both simplified and traditional when I can but I don't think I'll be able to master both.

To brush up/learn traditionals I convert a text I am studying (you must have a soft copy of it) using Wenlin, check and fix any ambiguities. It's not bad but it's pretty hard to do for all texts you study.

Simplified:

...

大为安慰月华说: "你别担心。 你可以随时回中国看他们。 他们也可以随时来看你。 我看, 你现在有渴又困。 你要喝杯啤酒, 然后去睡觉吗?" 月华回答说: "现在喝啤酒? 你常常喝啤酒吗?" 大为说他常常睡觉以前喝几瓶啤酒。 很多人在澳洲很会喝酒。 看起来, 月华对澳洲的风俗习惯还有很多要学呢。

Traditional:

...

大為安慰月華說: "你別擔心。 你可以隨時回中國看他們。 他們也可以隨時來看你。 我看, 你現在有渴又睏。 你要喝杯啤酒, 然後去睡覺嗎?" 月華回答說: "現在喝啤酒? 你常常喝啤酒嗎?" 大為說他常常睡覺以前喝幾瓶啤酒。 很多人在澳洲很會喝酒。 看起來, 月華對澳洲的風俗習慣還有很多要學呢。

Pinyin:

...

Dàwéi ānwèi Yuèhuá shuō: "Nǐ bié dānxīn. Nǐ kěyǐ suíshí huí Zhōngguó kàn tāmen. Tāmen yě kěyǐ suíshí lái kàn nǐ. Wǒ kàn, nǐ xiànzài yǒu kě yòu kùn. Nǐ yào hē bēi píjiǔ, ránhòu qù shuìjiào ma? " Yuèhuá huídá shuō: "xiànzài hē píjiǔ? Nǐ chángcháng hē píjiǔ ma? " Dàwéi shuō tā chángcháng shuìjiào yǐqián hē jǐ píng píjiǔ. Hěn duō rén zài Àozhōu hěn huì hē jiǔ. Kàn qilai, Yuèhuá duì Àozhōu de fēngsú xíguàn hái yǒu hěn duō yào xué ne.

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carlo

Personally I think once you learn one system it's very easy to learn another. I almost never looked at traditional characters before learning at least 3000 simplified ones, and the transition to reading books in tradional was rather easy. There are only 200-300 characters that radically differ in the two systems, so you can pick them up as you read.

Writing is tougher, but again exposure is key. If you read traditional all the time, you'll recall traditional characters more easily (and viceversa). And if you practice calligraphy, you'll be exposed to lots of variant characters (异体字), i.e. characters that are neither traditional nor simplified. Some of them very beautiful and logical, I might add.

Frankly I never understood all this fuzz about learning simplified or traditional, at least as far as 2nd language learners are concerned. As your literacy level increases, you'll gradually learn to read anything, including 小篆 and handwritten Chinese, but first you need a solid foundation in *something*.

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Mark Yong

Speaking as an amateur linguist, and as a passionate follower of Literary Chinese (文言文) over Mandarin, my vote goes for Traditional Chinese.

When I first started learning to write Chinese informally, I learnt my characters from the "ground-up" method, i.e. from the easiest to the more difficult. As a result, I was became accustomed to learning the characters by their components, i.e. radicals and phonetics. And because I was taught by a non-Mandarin speaking elder, I learnt all my characters with virtually no dependence on Mandarin.

The point I am making is that as what Eugenio Llorente mentioned in this thread, there is a logical development of Chinese characters that prevail in Traditional script, but has been destroyed somewhat by the Simplified script. Going back to the examples provided by Jose regarding the 廣/广 and 廠/厂. When I look at the word 廣, I automatically see the radical 广 + the phonetic 黃. Likewise when I see the word 廠, I see the radical 广 + the phonetic 敞. Notice that both words have the same radical 广 in Traditional Chinese, suggesting that they belong to the same family of "meanings". This logical connection was lost with the simplification to 厂. Scores of other examples exist, but I think you get my meaning.

The word here is "etymology" - if we cannot understand the etymology of the words we are learning, the task of memorising the thousands of Chinese characters by blind rote-learning becomes all the more difficult and discouraging.

The other aspect of the Chinese language that has been lost with the simplification of characters is the loss of words themselves, via the merging of two or more different characters in Traditional Chinese into one character in Simplified Chinese. There is a big difference between the word "mile" and the word "inside", yet 里 and 裡 are now one character 里. By reducing 餘 to 余 (which originally meant "I/me"), another word is lost. When you think about it, the additional radical 食 is just a few extra strokes, but captures the logical meaning of the word (even retaining the simplified radical 饣would have helped!).

I am given to understand that this character-merging process has been heavily biased towards the Beijing vocabulary, at the expense of the loss of a large number of words from other dialects.

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Mary Helen

I greatly appreciate the in-depth explanations of the differences between Traditional and simplified Chinese. Thank you.

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Mary Helen

If my grandkids (who are learning Traditional Chinese) want to eventually attend a university in Shanghai or Beijing, will they be disadvantaged for not having also learned Simplified Chinese? 

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feihong

@Mary Helen It depends on the university program they are applying to. Anecdotally, after I learned the commonly-used simplified characters (somewhere between 3000 to 4000), it was easy to learn the traditional equivalents. However, I believe there is little benefit to learning traditional and simplified at the same time. Strangely, many college programs in the US still start with traditional characters and switch to simplified for higher level classes.

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