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xuechengfeng

How important do you consider writing for a foreigner?

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錢 勇 龍

I live in Taiwan, teaching English. I have officially started Chinese classes about 5 months ago. 3 years ago, I just studied Chinese Characters, not knowing the words at all, just going through the motions. I had a kinda love/hate for characters. Now that I am really being taught by a teacher and reading a decent Textbook, I find my reading and overall comprehension is improving a lot. Had I gone to Chinese classes 3 years ago...... I would be pretty fluent. However, 3 years ago, I was too afraid to commit to spending the necessary time/money and effort necessary for learning Chinese. That said, the general writing practice I did 'on and off' over the last 3 years has brought my writing speed fast enough as to not waste much time when the teacher is giving me additional vocabulary. I am starting to collect about 50 extra pages in a notebook jam-packed with extra vocabulary that I was able to write in class time aside from the regular course material. Since, most all students at my school are still reading pinyin or zhuying within the first year, I am personally happy that I have that freedom to do that and that I am studying traditional characters from the onset. To address the topic, no it isn't necessary. In fact it is MUCH more time intensive, but I like the artistic aspect of excellent written characters- so I must be the exception... maybe a little strange? (sh)

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magores

For myself, I consider writing Chinese to be almost as important as speaking and reading.

I'm one of those people that can only remember (learn) things if I write them down. I can see something 100 times, but I won't remember it until I write it myself.

I don't know the names of the strokes (because I haven't tried to learn them), but if you show me a character, I can tell you the stroke order. Just the way my brain works, I guess.

As far as reading... I know a reasonable amount of characters. (more than 3 digits, much less than 4). But I find that reading a newspaper is very hard. I buy the paper, sit down with my dictionaries, and try to figure out the headlines. So, even though I don't know the characters, I can find them. The problem is the actual meaning.

The way words are abbreviated, the meanings that aren't shown in any of my dictionaries, the fact that some characters have many meanings, some of which are completely opposite of each other. It can be frustrating. But, I refuse to give up.

If I may rant for a second....

I see many lists of "The 500 most common Chinese Characters." Screw the common characters. Where is a list of the most common "words"?!

And, dictionaries... My Oxford E-C, C-E Dictionary has tons of characters/words. So do my others. But, most of the characters/words/meanings aren't actually in use. It's too much information. What is a good dictionary that only show the most common characters/words with the most common usage/meaning?

okay.. done ranting. :)

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roddy
I see many lists of "The 500 most common Chinese Characters." Screw the common characters. Where is a list of the most common "words"?!

And, dictionaries... My Oxford E-C, C-E Dictionary has tons of characters/words. So do my others. But, most of the characters/words/meanings aren't actually in use. It's too much information. What is a good dictionary that only show the most common characters/words with the most common usage/meaning?

HSK word lists and dictionaries are the answer - that limits it to (if I recall correctly) 8822 words, divided into four lists. While they're not strictly divided by frequency, it's a fair bet that those in the earlier lists are more common. A decent HSK dictionary . . . let me check my book cellar . . ah, here it is, under the fine wines . . . such as the HSK 词典, ISBN 7-5617-2078-5 . . . will tell you what level words are, and you can then decide how much attention you need to pay to them. That one is all in Chinese though, and to be honest I never really used it much so can't really recommend it.

There are also character lists for each of the four levels, so you could work through that and then you'll know the characters for the word list of the corresponding level.

There's an excel spreadsheet somewhere on here with word frequency info, but as it was compiled from Xinhua news articles rather than real language it needs to be used with caution.

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