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Please use this web-based forum discussion board to ask beginning and advanced technical questions and make comments. We hope some people can answer and help those in need. Anything relating to computers is appropriate. You may post html in this forum.

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Religious Zeal and Mandarin Chinese

Dear Mandarin Chinese enthusiasts,
was flipping through the Economist website the other day and came across an interesting blog on how to study Mandarin:
What amazed me the most was not so much the post itself but a) the number of comments the blog attracted and b) the intensity of the discussion as how to study Mandarin. A good friend of mine, Principal Jiao Yu of the Beijing Language Institute, gave his views based on his extensive experience teaching Mandarin as a foreign language… and triggered off an interesting discussion with some fellow commentators. It was again the intensity with which a comment on Mr Jiao’s comment was commented yet again that made me wonder: it seems as if the whole Mandarin studying world is at arms about the “right” way to teach and learn…
Principal Jiao’s post:
No matter what Chinese level a student is, unless she or he wishes to become a professional calligrapher, significant time spent on “handwriting” is not worth it and also the wrong way to go about Chinese language studies. Unfortunately, Chinese students and students of Chinese alike oftentimes spend more than half of their time on handwriting related tasks.
I need to clarify two concepts here, the one is “writing”, the other one is “handwriting”. In traditional Chinese language learning, a lot of time is spent/wasted on “handwriting”, but not “writing”. The teacher asks the students to repeat the handwriting of a character many times on paper to let them “remember” the characters. But handwriting is not necessary to achieve this goal. It is true that handwriting characters may help students remembering them, but it is in essence not efficient. Handwriting is a mechanic skill like riding a bicycle. Recognition of a character is a mental process starting with your eyes. Eyes, or visual systems, are ten times faster and more powerful in receiving and processing information than through dull mechanical repetition as is the case when handwriting. Chinese is the only language with a written system that can really take advantage of those visual capabilities of the human eyes (as opposed to alphabetical systems). To put it another way, reading characters can help students take in more linguistic information in a faster, easier and more interesting fashion given the correct pedagogic approach. Not only will the student’s reading improve but also their memory of vocabulary and grammatical understanding.
As a result of what has been said above I also advise against using too much Pinyin for too long time when studying Chinese. The recognition of characters is important and Pinyin takes away from that.
Principal Jiao Yu

Happy studies

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