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greensliver

Starting out with caligraphy - a bad idea?

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greensliver

Hello chinese-forums members and guests.

This is my first post; my first day as a member; and my first question. Please be kind. I'm as timid as they get.

I am planning to move to China or Taiwan in a year. I know that spoken Chinese is different according to region so I thought I could prepare by focusing on reading and writing. I decided to learn Chinese characters on my own. I’m not in a position to take a class, so it’s self-study or nothing. I love the beauty of the characters in calligraphy form so I’ve been using this site: http://www.usc.edu/dept/ealc/chinese/newweb/character_page.html

Here is my question: should I learn the character, the pinyin spelling and the sounds (speaking and listening) all at the same time or should I focus on just the characters and their meaning?

I appreciate all comments and advice.

Thank you.

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Xiao Kui

I think it's a great idea that you're getting a jump start on your reading and writing. 9 years ago when I was planning to move to China my plans got delayed by a year and I was working only part time so I went down to Starbucks abt 3 times a week and learned characters and basic grammar for 90-120 minutes each time. When I finally arrived in China a year later, I found I could read most of the signs and a lot of the subtitles on TV, so I didn't have that totally lost feeling a lot of foreigners have when they arrive.

I learned the character, pinyin, and definition. I also learned some basic grammar and sentence structure from this book , which helped with my speaking. It' okay, now I would recomment Chinese Made Easier by Martin Symonds, but it wasn't around back then. I also made some Chinese friends - int'l students at a local university and stayed with a Chinese family in the US for six weeks before setting out.

But I think that having the foundation in reading and writing was very helpful to me. I only regret not having learned the correct stroke order, because later I had to re-learn how to write the characters. It isn't necessary to know it to write, but it comes in handy later for handwriting recognition programs and keyboard input because some input programs (i think wubi) are based on stroke order. Also because my stroke order was wrong Chinese friends would always giggle when I wrote (though if they saw the finished product alone, they were impressed.)

Also you might want to get it settled as to whether you'll be studying in mainland or Taiwan. I must have learned 100 traditional characters before a Chinese friend broke it to me that they used the simplified version in the mainland. (I was totally clueless back then.) If you are going to mainland focus on simplified, taiwan focus on traditional. You can always go back and learn the other later. If you are going to be learning calligraphy focus on traditional. I'm just trying to save you some time because learning to read and write is a slow and long process so you don't want to learn extras till you have the basics down, IMHO you don't have time for that.

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greensliver

I've already learned that xiao is small; what is kui?

Thank you for the advice. I only wish I knew where I'd be ending up. There's a private school I want to teach at in Hong Kong that has a Canadian curriculum, and would allow my daughter to attend for free. It's a long shot but my #1 choice. I've a friend in Taipei teaching at a good school there too. I'll be visiting both places in Feb. 2007 with my family to get a feel for things. Is the situation in Hong Kong the same as the mainland for simplified characters?

I trecked through China mainland for a month in 1991 and loved it. It's a gorgeous country with gorgeous, generous people who made my visit extraordinary. I hope to give my daughter this experience for a few years.

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Jonny Wang

Hong Kong also uses traditional characters, like Taiwan.

As for the spoken language, on both the mainland and Taiwan, "standard" Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) is what you want to learn. There are some vocab differences, etc., but generally speaking that's the case (although the romanization, i.e., pinyin might be different?). And in Hong Kong, the spoken language is Cantonese, but I've found that many Hong Kongers understand and can speak at least some Mandarin Chinese, albeit with a non-standard accent sometimes. I think they all learn it in school now as a second spoken language (or third, after English?)

The mainland has tons of different spoken "dialects" (really seperate spoken languages - much more extreme than mere dialects), but all educated people speak and understand standard Mandarin Chinese and that's what you'll study and learn no matter where you end up on the mainland. Even in Guangdong province, the mainland province bordering Hong Kong, where Cantonese is the "local" language, most everyone can understand and use Mandarin.

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greensliver

Thanks for that reply Jonny.

How lucky for me that Taiwan and Hong Kong both use the traditional characters. I'm up to 60, and am aiming for 500 this year.

This board is such a great source of information. Glad I found it.

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Lu

As Johnny Wang said, the official language of both the PRC and Taiwan is Mandarin (putonghua/guoyu). All educated people can speak it. If you plan to end up in either the mainland or Taiwan, Mandarin is what you need.

I'd learn both sound (don't forget the tones; they are very important) and the meaning when you learn the characters. Apart from the fact that learning the sound will be very useful when you decide to learn to speak as well, it can also help in making sense of the characters. Many characters that sound similar have the same components.

I wouldn't start with calligraphy right away, I think it's better to have a good basis in characters, and only then start with calligraphy.

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greensliver

Looks like if I want to learn characters, their pinyin version, and sounds (including tones) I won't have time for caligraphy! The USC website I've been using shows the stroke order, so at least I've been learning that right.

I bought a kid's book for character practice (they're only about 50 cents) that has a space for the pinyin version to be written underneath. At first I used a pencil to make the characters but it really made me feel like a kid. I tried using a ballpoint pen and it was better. Then, my husband gave me a felt tip pen that the students apparently use to imitate the black ink and brush stroke.

I know it might sound inconsequential, but somehow, how 'good' my characters look seems important (to me at least). I just think the characters so artful.

I wonder what most people on this board use.

Thanks Lu.

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greensliver

:lol:

You know, as soon as I hit the post button I realized how silly my question seemed. Especially since this is a forum for people learning Chinese language and what you use to write your characters seems so trivial now.

I'll know I've come a long way when I too can say I use a computer.

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Jonny Wang

Actually, I was making fun of myself, because I can't really write characters by hand (or at least only a few simple ones). I never took the time to learn. But the beauty of Word is that you just type the pinyin and it guesses the characters for you! Yeah! As long as you can visually recognize characters, you're okay. So, Word is more of a crutch, not some advanced level of writing Chinese. :mrgreen:

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Xiao Kui

For writing Chinese characters I love those Uniball Vision pens - they write so smoothly so your hand doesnt tire out like it does with a ballpoint. Also the line is nice and bold so the characters look good. When I was learning to write characters and practicing over and over I also found that using different bright colors took some of the monotony out of it.

I've already learned that xiao is small; what is kui?

This computer has no IME so I cant write the character, but kui2 means sunflower, i got the name after my Chinese kindergartners who couldnt pronounce my name called me Kui-stina instead of Christina, which as they got more familiar with me degenerated to Kui-Kui, and then got downright disrespectful as 4 and 5 yr olds were calling me Xiao Kui Kui just to get on my nerves. I ended up kind of liking it and adopting the name - if you cant beat them join em. More info than you asked for. :mrgreen:

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greensliver

Hello Xiao Kui,

Loved the story of how you got your name. I find stories add so much to the fabric of memory - now I'll never forget 'sunflower'. I often use mnemonics to remember new vocabulary.

I'll look for those uniball pens too. Don't know if I can get them here but the idea of livening things up with color appeals to me too.

I'm nearing the 100 characters mark. Learning to write them, the pinyin and tones slows me down but I do think it will be all worth it later.

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gamerfu

I practice my character writing on a dry erase board.

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