Dumbing Down the Writing of Chinese Characters

Discussion in 'Specific Languages' started by Big_Dog, Sep 5, 2014.

  1. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    I recently read the article Learning to Write Chinese Characters on italki and it really annoyed me. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was written by the CEO of Skritter, an app whose sole purpose appears to be to teach stroke order. For the uninitiated, chinese stroke order is very simple, and follows some basic rules. My point being - why buy an app for such a simple thing? Anyway, that's off topic - if you want to debate the need for such an app, fine, but that's not my focus.

    The thing that annoyed me most is this article is supposed to be about the importance of writing Chinese characters. But instead of mentioning important and useful information, he skewed just about everything to point to stroke order, and left out lots of facts. Now I understand this article was supposed to cross advertise italki and Skritter. But it was linked to in a normal discussion by the CEO, as if it was just a language learning article. So I'm going to criticize is as if it was supposed to be a real language learning article.

    Handwriting is no harder than the other skills. You don't need to look up stroke orders or directions - just learn the rules. Knowing the position of the components (radicals) and what they mean are parts of knowing how to write a character, but not everything. Why not mention everything involved?

    The real reason is that when you write quickly or sloppily your characters will look like a quick/sloppy native character, and still be recognizable.

    It wouldn't be awkward, difficult or slower. But it would probably look different when you write it quickly.

    This obscures the facts. Don't think of each character as having it's own stroke order. As I said earlier, there is a set of rules. Follow them, and stroke order is pretty simple.

    Nope. Just learn the rules. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they'll really stick out in your mind, and you won't need to work hard at it.

    Dumbed down big time. You need to handwrite characters for the same reasons you need to handwrite an alphabet when you learn it. Also, I get the feeling the CEO is trying to sell the app to people who don't believe handwriting is necessary in language learning. Heaven forbid he list the traditional advantages of handwriting…he might alienate some angry kid on the web.

    I see…so active recall of a character means actively trying to recall that information from memory. Right. Why the hell didn't he say to write the character here?

    And yet this is the way most natives, and many foreigners, learn characters. I guess they need to be introduced to the miracle of Skittles.

    No, nobody does that, that's why it's a straw man. And if I had a pen, I could write characters whenever and wherever I want. On your elbow, for example.

    Don't tell me what to spread.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2014
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  2. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

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    I wonder what you will write on his elbow?
  3. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    From my perspective of 3 years of mandarin 30 years ago, I agree with you 100%. That stuff is not just wrong, it is outright idiotic. As you say, after a while you know how to write any previously unknown character on sight. Even if you didn't follow the exact sequence it usually wouldn't matter. And writing characters over and over is extremely helpful.

    The biggest problem including apparently with the Chinese from what I have read, is that people all over the world write less and less.

    This guy has shown himself to either be a lying huckster or an ignorant moron. But we already knew that, because as you say, no app is needed for writing characters. Even if it were, it is too narrow of a concept on which to base a business.
  4. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    肘?
  5. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    Try one of these terms instead. Make sure you use the right stroke order.
  6. Nobody

    Nobody Member

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    To be honest, I like Skritter in principle, being essentially an Anki-variant for Chinese which is both more fun to use and for which it is easier to create cards. What I don't like about it is the pricing model: it should be a one-time purchase, not a subscription. But, I agree that trying to hype the product in terms of teaching stroke order is somewhere between silly and bizarre. Yes, you'll master stroke order in the process, but you'd master that anyway just by studying Chinese beyond a superficial level. For the money, it makes more sense to just use Pleco: I can draw the character on the screen with Pleco just as easily if I feel like it (though I prefer paper & brush pen), and I know the stroke order is right because it's simply not very complicated (and even if it weren't, you can purchase stroke-order information in Pleco for less than the cost of one month's subscription to Skritter). Even if it were slightly wrong, no big deal as long as I can both read and write the character or word.
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  7. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    Nice review Nobody.

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