traditional Chinese or simplified Chhinese

April 08, 2013, 08:27 PM posted in General Discussion

I just want to contribute my 2 cents on the above topic: I read somewhere that President Ma (Taiwan) once said that if you know traditional Chinese then you know simplified Chinese, but if you know simplified Chinese you may not necessarily know traditional Chinese.  As a Chinese instructor at US univ I tend to agree with him (non-bias politically.)  I often perform or draw for my students to demonstrate why a pictorial character is formed the way it is.  They are so fascinated that they remember the anecdotes and write back to me as I wrote. So here you have it.  Good to know both.  Because they are connected.  if you have to choose one.  Do what reality requires you.

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April 09, 2013, 12:11 AM

I remember asking some colleagues from Tiawan about a simplified character, and having them reply they weren't sure what it was.   So, I think the distinction cuts both ways, sometimes.  I think there is no way to tell that 无 and  無 are the same character, if you don't just know, for instance.  Conversely, my reading ability is impaired by traditional characters, but there are enough similarities that I can guess what most of them are, even though I have only made a concerted effort to learn simplified. 

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April 09, 2013, 12:19 AM

At the risk of getting into a debate i'm not interested in participating in,

1)speaking as a foreigner, Isn't this entire traditional/simplified issue is really for Chinese to settle themselves?

2)my one trip to Banpoguan in Xi'an made me realize how 5000 or 6000 years ago, characters really did look like water, or fire or what they were supposed to represent.  Now all these millenia later, traditional or not, the character for water or fire or whatever else doesn't look like what it did.  Back then it made "visual sense". 

3)as you said, do what reality requires you.  At the end of the day, i'm in Beijing, and simplified is everywhere. That's all i'm really interested in learning.  Plus, I have enough on my plate learning spoken Chinese as well as written, as well as working, raising kids,......

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April 09, 2013, 06:33 PM

Hi Mark and Pretzel, Comrades in Learning Chinese:

Thank you both for sharing your insights -- I would not call our open dialogue a "debate" (discuss reasons for and against something).  Mark is correct about some simplified characters that I have no clue. In China I read newspaper slower than in Taiwan exactly for the reason you mentioned.  There are times, I have to figure out from the context.  I left China for Taiwan at the age of 9, before the character-reform era; I left Taiwan for the States in my twenties for graduate school; thus I know bo/po/mo/fo, I went thru all kind of pinyin systems: Yale, columbia, Sir Thomas Wade...make things more complicated: traditional or simplified writing.  As a Chinese-American I find it facinating, like Book of Yi says ying-yang, black-white, they are not seperated, they are always connected from the same roots. Pretzel has the right approach, be flexible knowing your priority. Speaking foreign languge gives you instant pleasure, writing foreign language gives you longer-lasting sophistication, yet there is a price: headache...but you overcome the growing pain, language is your tool, your power. Xia xia ni both. Happy Chinese Experience, my friends.

ps I volunteered to teach Madarine Chinese emphasizeing conversational than writing) in NYC for 2 months this summer vacation.  Free.