I'm in the same boat as patio, as I write notes by hand MAYBE once a week (now that patio quit the dayjob, I'm sure he writes a lot less often).
While my reading is still at a high level (Lv 2 of the Kanji-kentei) my writing is worse than an elementary school student (currently lv 8 in writing).
As an aside, in this post I misspelled about 3-4 words and would never have been able to correct them if I didn't have spellcheck... so this definitely isn't a problem limited to character-based languages.
But there's no way I can do the traditional approach of writing out each character hundreds and hundreds of times. I don't have the time or temperament. So I'm hoping a combination of flashcards and watching TV (most Chinese programs seem to have Chinese script subtitles, I assume to serve the various dialects that share the writing system) will do the trick.
That's one issue the article didn't fully address: the importance of that muscle memory in learning and retaining the characters.
Not intended as a sales pitch since most of our materials are actually free. But if you haven't dropped by you really should. I think you'll find our stuff will push you to genuine fluency a lot faster than Chinese television and flashcards. Especially if you are an elementary or intermediate-level learner and have already advanced to the stage where most Chinese textbooks are suffocatingly underwhelming.
There were a bunch of sites like yours awhile ago, although I'm not sure how many have survived or become profitable.
My impression is that most of the players in our industry are VC-funded and losing money. Their economics are quite different from ours though. Since it sounds like you're a fellow speaker, I'd suggest checking out our Intermediate and Advanced lessons, along with our selection of manually annotated short stories. If you're accustomed to standard mandarin as actually spoken (with the neutral tone, proper erhua-ization, etc.), or are good enough to try your hand at Dream of the Red Chamber or Journey to the West, I think you'll see and hear the difference right away.
As for your problems learning the language, there is no other way other than rot memorization, and if you don't have the time, you shouldn't even bother. Seriously. If you can make the time but don't have the temperament, go somewhere where they will beat it into you Chinese-style, because there really is no other way to memorize the thousands of characters necessary to be proficient in Chinese. If you become serious and are looking for recommendations ping me and I will give you some.
Please, some practical advice:
Learn your stokes and always follow stroke order. Each stroke has a rhythm, and each character has a composite rhythm. Rhythm is an excellent mnemonic device.
An hour a day, everyday, is enough to make good progress. Half an hour twice a day is better. Your nervous system forms pathways between sessions, not during, so you want to optimize for that, not the session itself.
Throw out the flash cards, and throw out the books of pseudo-etymology. Find a book of pen calligraphy, and focus on strokes, positioning, balance.
Here's one place to start:
And once you're further along:
Haha, don't worry, I know this.
I've seen people beat themselves into doing what I consider an extremely boring way of studying, telling themselves "there's no other way". My point is that using a method that stimulates your imagination, or links the character to words, or explains how it got its shape, helps a lot to make things interesting and meaningful compared to studying it "in the vacuum".
Discipline and time are always required, but some methods make it less painful. My impression is that most people don't spend enough time to plan their studies. They take a class, get told "you must know these 50 characters for next week", and then just learn them with almost no context, pure raw memorization. After trying this, many people think they "don't have the temperament", like you said. My point is, sometimes it is, but more often than not I'd put it on bad methodology. It's possible to make it more interesting and learn them without a flogging ;)
Unfortunately getting good at calligraphy also takes time and effort...
1) Use pens and pads for computer character entry so the same characters can be used by both.
2) Switch to a new written form that can also be typed.
I'd personally love to see global adoption of a new language designed from the beginning to be simple, unambiguous, and easily written and typed. It'll never happen of course.
Culture is living things, like butterflies. It's good to pin a few down for the museum, but on the whole they needs to be left to roam free. This is not sadness; this is life. You won't be able to see tomorrow's wonders if you're too stuck on today's, or worse, yesterday's, and all three are worth seeing!
In Japanese こ can only be pronounced one way.
In Chinese (I believe) 子 can only be pronounced one way. It also has an associated meaning which is handy for learning new words.
In english, what sound does C make?
ex) Chair Care cycle
Why can I pronounce Ghoti as 'Fish'?
Read <-- How do you pronounce this? Is it Red or Reed?
I actually find the looseness of English spelling to be much more of a hardship than learning a number of different pronunciations.
However, that's not what I meant. I meant to say as far as ease of transcribing spoken word onto paper, alphabet system is fundamentally easier, because you only have to remember 25-45 (approximately) number of characters. While in hieroglyphics, the number is much much larger.
That's because Chinese is tonal. There are 5 different tones in Standard Mandarin. When transliterating Chinese to the English alphabet, there is no way to write the tone, so you introduce ambiguity that wasn't officially present.
Kanji is an exception in Japanese because it was forcibly shoe-horned into the language. (Granted, Kanji came before kana, but as far as 'purely Japanese' scripts I think that kana takes precedence). Thus it really doesn't fit well with the Japanese pronunciations because sometimes it was brought in for meaning (火山 vs 火) without any care for how it was pronounced -- either forcing the pronunciation to conform to the original Japanese word, or creating a new word from the Chinese.
Also the fact that Kanji entered japan at different points in history means that there were different interpretations of how the kanji should be used. (I see something similar with katakana -- you can generally tell the timeframe in which the word entered the Japanese language depending on whether the word is based on the English spelling, or the English pronunciation. Or is even from another language such a Portuguese or German)
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Not that I think that Japanese is a great example of a "logical language." But one of the things I always liked about Japanese is the fact that (with a few exceptions) the kana can only be pronounced one way.
Btw, as I'm sure you know the pronunciations for 二 is に. But when you combine it as part of a word can also be pronounced ふた、ふ、ふう or じ
Much like how the English alphabet ultimately originates from Egyptian hieroglyphs, and was forcibly shoe-horned into the language by the Romans as they spread Christianity across Europe.
But one of the things I always liked about Japanese is the fact that (with a few exceptions) the kana can only be pronounced one way.
Well, it does omit pitch accent. Reminds me of how my Japanese professor mentioned that she went almost a decade without realizing that in the こ-, そ-, あ-, ど- series, ど- involves a decrease in pitch, whereas the others involve an increase. Something that would be very useful to include in the orthography ;/
Which is somewhat analogous to how 'p' and 'h' have one pronunciation (that I can think of off the top of my head), but when they're combined, you get an 'f' sound.
The problem with the pitch accent is that it varies so much by region that if you included them in the kana (like the universal phonetic alphabet) you would end up with something that was completely unreadable by people from a different prefecture. (Ok, I'm taking that to an extreme, but still. The Japanese have enough problems with various dialects without putting pitches in the written language. I think I would cry.)
Another interesting thing is that even within the kana there are slight variations in pronunciation. in 三年、三万、三月 all the んs are pronounced differently.
I think we should agree that all language is fubared. Except for Esperonto. And no one uses that (no matter what the wikipedia page says).
Yeah, that's definitely true. You would have to use it just for 標準語, sort of like how pinyin with tonal diacritics is primarily used for Standard Mandarin, since something like 関西弁 would look completely different.
By the way, I remember reading (on HN, I believe) that a lot of the problems with English spelling are a result of the original typesetters (i.e., for Gutenberg-style printing presses) being Dutch, so they failed to accurately spell a lot of English words.
And Esperanto is for noobs ;) If you want to see a real conlang built from the ground up, check out Ilaksh: http://www.ithkuil.net/ilaksh/Ilaksh_Intro.html
If you learn Chinese by young, you'll have helluva advantage on pattern recognition and memory.
I for one think that it's a positive thing to move away from the symbolic characters - it'll make languages easier to learn and let more people communicate with each other.
Separating the meaning from the sound is like naming variables with meaningless short combination of letters.
If someone forgets a hanzi, is a pinyin substitute acceptable?
I did recently though want to write something in cursive (jokily flowery greeting in a card) and I couldn't remember how to write a bunch of stuff, especially capital letters. Had to go online to remind myself how you write a cursive capital Q.
P.S. This reminds me of the days in the 1980s when I had to translate handwritten manuscripts by magazine reporters in Chinese into English. There is a lot of nonstandard handwriting in the Chinese-speaking world, as I discovered when I would ask colleagues to read one another's handwriting to get a reality check on how I read it.
Non-standard writing and simplifications are recognized in many cases. It's far from perfect; it's just a bit faster and more convenient than their old phones.
Still interesting, but it would be good to put in the title.