The beginning of the end for Traditional Chinese characters?

Discussion in 'Chinese Language' started by lmcjipo, Apr 27, 2006.

  1. lmcjipo

    lmcjipo 榜眼

    Someone provided me with a link to an online petition. I won't post the online petition here or the link because I don't think that it would be appropriate to post it on this forum. Based on a very quick look/read, the online petition basically states that the UN is abolishing the use of traditional Chinese on UN documents starting/in 2008.

    Is this real or a hoax? What does everything think of this? Is this the beginning of the end for traditional Chinese characters?

    To find the online petition or the links, use any search engine and search for "united nations abolish traditional chinese".
     
  2. chao-ren

    chao-ren 进士

    trad vs simplified

    I think the person who put up such a petition does not really understand or appreciate the Chinese language.

    Most graduates in China can read both. Some think it is even embarassing to be not able to recognise traditional characters like those who learn the langauge outside of China.

    Also "Simplified" characters make up only about 500 of the 5000 most frequently used "traditional" characters. This is such a small proportion.

    Virtually all Chinese "classics" and other ancient documents of literature are all written in "traditional" characters.

    UNESCO thinks it is wortwhile to preserve the Naxi hieroglypghic language because ancient documents wriiten in Naxi Wen would be lost forever if the entire 1500 pictographs of the language is not carefully preserved and documented. Naxi is an ancient tribe that use to live near what is now northern Yunnan and southern Sichuan province of China. It is also supposedly the home of the ancient ancestors of the Chinese people. The best place to appreciate Naxi culture is to visit LiJiang city in Yunnan. China. Someone in Dalien university has gone to the trouble of inventing a quick computer input technique for inputing Naxi pictographs so that almost anyone who learns the language can quickly "type out" the naxi pictographs without having to "draw" each word.

    For traditional characters the same arguement applies. You can write traditional characters into computers just as easily as you can write simplified ones so the arguement that one is more "efficient" than the other does not really hold true.

    Traditional characters are probably easier to learn and both can be remembered more easily if they are placed side by side as in a dicitonary. Simplified character are more "meaningless" especially when placed next to their traditional counterpart.

    "Abolition of traditional characters" just means removing the 500 or so traditional characters which have been "simplified" since 1950 and then asking people to substitute a "comical" version of each traditional character whenever needed. The vast remainder of the chinese characters which have not been "simplified" must remain unchanged and reused. What is the point of such an exercise?

    Chinese is a "living" language which means it must allow all sorts of changes as long as it makes more sense or is more "convenient" for the people using it. With Unicode or a "compendium" the size of unicode it is probably possible to import all sorts of characters simplified or new, even from another language. Characters used in Japanese or Cantonese or Korean can be "imported" or incorporated into the vernacular. Rules that try to "restrict" people's imagination is not that useful in languages because after all the purpose of a language is to "communicate" or think. :idea:
     
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  3. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    I'm pretty sure the move is for real, but I for one don't think it's that big a deal - I suspect it was done more for financial than politicial reasons, the UN is constantly under budget pressure and limiting official documents to a single Chinese character set could end up saving them quite a lot of money. I certainly don't think it will have much of an impact on traditional character usage around the world; the UN is not exactly a major player in the world of Chinese linguistics, and there are plenty of other trends that are a much greater threat to traditional character usage than this.
     
  4. chao-ren

    chao-ren 进士

    Some of my friends are actually quite angry about this. they think it is the demise of traditional characters.

    Their argument goes something like this:
    With about over 1 billion people required to learn "simplified" characters formally in China, give or take another 200 million - or the size of the US population; and about only 30 million people (exaggerated total population of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other areas like Malaysia etc) required to do the same with "traditional" characters, traditional characters could truly become quite obsolete.

    Whether the use of traditional characters become obsolete or redundant will also depend upon the rise or influence of mainland chinese "culture" or the mainland China's economy over the other regions preferring the use of traditional characters. This is a certainty however. Hong Kong and Taiwan economies already depend to a very large extent upon mainland China for survival.
    Traditional character learners will almost always have to learn the equivalent simplified version ( because he or she wants to go to China to trade etc...) whereas, the simplified character learner can just simply ignore the traditional character equivalent (unless, he or she is adamant about learning the classics etc.. )

    I think the move is also "political" because , UN has to recognise the official "writing method" that China proposes since it already recognises the present govt of China as the legitimate authority of "one China" Chinese Nation. In accepting the official writing method, it is tantamount to accepting "simplified" characters. :(

    All this is a bit like Microsoft assuming if you use the pinyin input method you definitely want to input simplified characters into Microsoft Word.
     
  5. lmcjipo

    lmcjipo 榜眼

    On a somewhat related issue, I think that eventually all the different dialects in China will eventually die in terms of usage (like Latin) and when someone mentions the Chinese language, there will be only 1 meaning (Mandarin). I think that this will be a pity/shame but I can see it happening based on what some of my mainland Chinese colleagues have told me.

    As an example:
    One of my colleagues from Shanghai told me that in Shanghai, they don't teach the Shanghai dialect anymore and they only teach Mandarin. Eventually, no one will understand the Shanghai dialect.

    Hong Kong is also moving from Cantonese to Mandarin albeit slowly.
     
  6. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Re: trad vs simplified

    chao-ren, In my experience the greatest challenge reading ancient chinese is understanding the grammar and meaning of characters (which are often quite different then modern chinese, or are not used at all today).

    For a person who learned simplified chinese recognizing the traditional character version of a simplified character is a minor problem compared to those above.

    Do you agree?

    Henry
     
  7. chao-ren

    chao-ren 进士

    let a a hundred flowers bloom

    But Henry this challenge, this "mystery" of natural languages is precisely what makes natural language beautiful and worthwhile. It is what makes us human. It is what woos women.

    Natural languages will never be mathematically precise like computer languages ( C, C++, Java etc..) (It would be impossible to design the perfect IDE to catch each and every grammatical faux pas, each and every inoperable line of code.) It seems this is what you want.

    There will always be doubt about what a particular poet means. Shakesphere would be "meaningless" in modern English. Where would be the beauty of "in this winter of our discontent" or phrases like that?

    I believe both version of Chinese (simp/trad) should co-exist. It does not matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice. I am also not a "language purist" unlike some "experts" at the Chinese University of Hong Kong(in HK) who would argue that certain Tang poems written while the poet was "down south" sounds better read in Cantonese tone than in the now more popular northern dialect we know as putonghua/Mandarin etc. etc... They would go on to argue that the death of certain dialects will be the death of some of the most enjoyable chinese opera we know etc.. Some people have devoted their whole life to preserving such traditions..
    Such is the costs of expediency..

    Well getting back to the "day to day" business of learning Chinese which is what your next comment is really about:
    Some people sincerely believe learning simplified characters is easier and learning traditional characters can come later if the student proves to have "special ability". If you believe in this view you probably agree with the official policy of the present China govt.

    "Simplified characters" was introduced by the govt of China (around 1950) because it believed that this was the fastest way to get as many people as possible literate and reduce the widespread poverty prevalent at the time.
    The present goal is to completely eliminate illiteracy by 2020 or was it 2050 ( I am not sure). Both dates are equally admirable in my opinion considering the number of people involved. Like UN I think female literacy is very important. The best way to uplift a country to a developed status is to educate the females to an equivalent high school standard (grade 9? ). I can't see how this can be done in traditional characters or the resources we have in ths form.

    From a language learning point of view, there are people who still believe it is not necessarily easier to remember "simplified" characters just because the stroke count is lesser than the equivalent traditional character.

    Some people also believe that the simplifying of character artificially or arbitrarily cuts out some of the "meaning" encompassed in the traditional character which has evolved "naturally" over the years into its present form. It is such meaning that makes the language "beautiful" and what makes it easier to remember in some cases. Some are also emotionally affected by the way a character is written which also affects the way the language develops.

    With the rate at which China is developing, the prevalence of TVs, and PCs etc..and the use of simplified characters as a standard, I think the goal of 98% literacy can best be achieved using simplified characters. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more people who believe simplified characters are easier, the more people will be literate in this form of writing. This will also mean most magazines, newspapers and websites will be in simplified characters which in turn will ensure more people learn simplified characters to ensure they themselves can "function" in the new China. :idea:
     
  8. chao-ren

    chao-ren 进士

    Actually Henry a more straight forward answer ( minus sarcasm :lol: ) is that you are confusing the "twin" movements in modern Chinese language development i.e.

    a) Bai Hua Wen vs. Wen Yan Wen (文言文)
    b) Simplified chrs vs. Traditional chrs

    Lu Xun was one of the earliest writers who wrote in "Bai Hua Wen" and
    (in Traditional characters) but you can find his writings now printed in
    Simplified chrs. in China

    The fact that Trad characters were used differently in ancient times ie in Wen Yan Wen literature does not at all detract from the Simplified vs Trad char debate.
     
  9. Henry

    Henry 进士

    Chao-ren,

    You made a number of interesting points on many subjects, but perhaps did not understand my question to you.

    If I understood you correctly (if!) you feel one of the reasons that learning traditional Chinese characters is better then learning the simplified equivalents is because
    so people who regularily use traditional characters will be able to have access these documents.

    Did I understand you correctly? If I did, then I have the following point-

    I regularily use simplified Chinese characters, and in my experience (when reading ancient documents) being able to recognize the traditional character equivalent of a simplified character is a minor problem compared to the other challenges, namely grammar and recognizing "same-meaning-different character" characters, "differently-written" characters, and characters that don't exist in modern Chinese.(通假字,异体字,古子)

    Any person who has learned modern Chinese will require significant education to be able to understand ancient documents. For this reason I don't feel that "access to the Classics and ancient documents" is a very good argument for regular use of traditional characters.

    I'm sorry if I did misunderstand you!

    Henry
     
  10. feng

    feng 榜眼

    Could somebody please explain to me how it is that Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao have such great literacy rates using those awful traditional characters that no one (and especially women one post seems to suggest) can learn because they are so difficult?

    We aren't discussing this in a vacuum. We have real places with real people with extremely high literacy rates using a system that supposedly does not lead to that. And the answer is not that the PRC is so populous. That is just the only politically correct answer available in the PRC; that's why Chinese people there say it so often. We have to think critically about these issues.

    The story about the physicist who calculated that bumble bees could not fly is true, but he realized that they do fly (physicists are so smart) and that that meant he was wrong and had to rethink things.


    The UN not making a politically based decision :eek: ? That is all the UN does.
     
  11. JD

    JD 榜眼

    Although it's an interesting topic, the thread you are replying to is 9 years old. Perhaps starting a new thread with a fresh summary and linking to the old thread would make more sense? There's no telling if the original participants even read any more (actually, I guess you can...spot checking one of them showed no activity in the past two years)

    Just a suggestion.

    JD
     
  12. feng

    feng 榜眼

    Thank you for your suggestion. Perhaps I am violating internet etiquette, but I was thinking one thread was better than two. This way I don't have to link to anything, and the original participants certainly won't be notified of a new thread. My reason for posting to this old thread was to suggest that the PRC is wrong, and at the same time bring the thread to the top of the forum (sort of the same as making a new thread?). But again, tell me if I am violating some hard and fast rule of internetiquette, like TYPING IN ALL CAPS which apparently is very scary.

    PS I've been away from the forum for very long periods before, so the original participants may just be hibernating :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
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  13. JD

    JD 榜眼

    I don't think there is any hard-and-fast rule for how old a posting should be before you shouldn't reply to it. To me, a post is stale after a few months, but if it still seems relevant I'd reply to it. However, when it's several years old, I wouldn't...but that's solely personal preference.

    My point in my original note was to single out the age of the thread. But it looks like you realized the age of the thread, so that wasn't a valid concern on my part.

    IMO, it does "feel" weird to directly address people that haven't posted or logged in to the Pleco forums in years...but you never know and they might have set up that particular posting to email them when an update has been made. I think the probability is that you are talking to 'phantoms' though. But if the content of your comment is good, somebody might pick up the resurrected thread.

    JD
     
  14. 朱真明

    朱真明 进士

    Here I am one year later with my opinion. I don't think that a post needs to be active for someone to appropriately input their comment even if referencing what was said before (which is the point of the thread). Posting your opinion gives another angle for those who may happen to view this thread later on. You need not expect a reply from the previous posters.
     
  15. miaom

    miaom Member

    German is not a part of the official UN languages, official UN documents have no German version, nevertheless, the language stubbornly doesn't disappear. Calm down, traditional Chinese characters are going to continue to exist; they are ubiquitous even on the mainland.
     
  16. feng

    feng 榜眼

    German is a language. Traditional characters are a writing system. I understand what you are trying to say, but the comparison is a little bit apples and oranges : )

    I am not sure how you would say they are ubiquitous on the mainland. It would be overly generous of me if I said one could find 1 in 10,000 books printed in traditional characters in the PRC. Sure a stray sign here or there uses traditional, but most signs are in simplified.
     
  17. miaom

    miaom Member

    I was thinking of KTV subtitles, which are often in traditional characters, even if the song is from the mainland; the writings on old building (naturally and no surprise) "official decorative writings", you know, the kind they put on these stones in front of government buildings and on logos of educational institutions. They are at places where you want to push the image of tradition and gravitas. Oh and kids use traditional characters for their calligraphy practises in class.

    Yeah, but you are certainly right about the books :)

    I mean 'ubiquitous' as in "for a country using simplified characters, they use traditional characters quite often :p

    Actually, there are not a few mainlanders I met, who would rather use traditional characters and regret the introduction of simplified characters. Who knows, maybe they will return to traditional characters some day and make all the foreigners, who only learned simplified characters cry.
     
  18. feng

    feng 榜眼

    Yes, I think they will return to traditional characters as soon as the CCP dies. A lot of Chinese in the PRC like them.

    The point here is that you can easily go through your whole day in the PRC without seeing a single traditional character.

    KTV is probably a case of pirating Hong Kong or Taiwan's lyrics database. The singers are mostly Hong Kongers or Taiwanese anyway. I would bet my life that it is not a case of someone on the mainland saying, hey, I want to use traditional here. [EDIT: and plenty of KTV lyrics are in simplified.]

    Yes, _some_ government and a lot of university front entrances use simplified characters, but just at the entrance, and only some government buildings, and not any K- 12 schools that I have seen.

    I wish to suggest that ubiquitous means ubiquitous :)

    In school, even for calligraphy class(time), they use simplified characters. Private instruction is usually different of course.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  19. ccht

    ccht Member

    I think nobody think is impossible to learn it, but you must admit that it takes more time to learn to write and read traditional characters. As a foreigner stuying in mainland, I rather prefer to learn first simplified and then move to traditional, is faster in my experience. I can even identify traditional characters that I never seen before without actually trying, by just guessing. Also, I hate to try to read traditional chinese online because some characters have too many strokes packed in a small space that I literally can't see it but a dark dot.

    Actually, the ROC contemplated using simplified characters as a fast way to educate the masses but stopped at one point and I'm guessing it was political related. You are quick to deny the population factor and should I remind the circumstances of that population in mainland: poor after WW2, a Civil war and blocked internationally. You can said that ROC in Taiwan was poor as PRC in mainland, but there is a difference: it was not blocked internationally and had access to support, aid and international markets.

    You talk about HK, MC and TW as examples of how you can learn traditional characters. Indeed, you can do it, everyone can do it, but those examples are in a very different context of what a mess was the mainland. I mean, who can learn faster to write 龍,a 1950 HK child or a post chinese civil war child? But if you teach 龙, there is no doubt with what will be easier to start with in a poor environment where kids have disadvantages. Even me, someone that can be said had no hardships at all and have access to education since 4 years old, didn't realize the difference between 人 and 入 until my third semester of chinese. I always read 入口: ren2kou3 instead of ru4kou3 in metro stations and wondered why it was called that way, maybe because is the hole where a lot of 人 enter?

    Why koreans created their own writting system besides using hanja (hanzi)? Why japanese invented the Kana besides using kanji (hanzi)? Because if a language, in this case the writting system of that language, is too complex for the masses to use it, it will die slowly as happened with Latin.

    Sure, classics need to be preserved, protected, but language should be in function of the people, not otherwise. Latin and their erudites wanted the people to revolve around it, and even called the Romance languages 'vulgar' Latin. What the uneducated masses speak in the present and where is Latin today? Just used in very specific areas and forgotten by the masses.

    Well, more or less is the case of using simplified chinese in mainland. Is not like traditional chinese is banned, all my teachers know to write and read it; they need to study them. They will not discourage you from learning it and will be delighted if you are interested, but they can appreciate both. In the other hand, sometimes I feel somekind of snobism from native traditional characters users, like some sort of contempt for learning simplified characters, I guess this disdain is politically motivated and I don't see the point of linking a writting system with a political party, since simplified chinese was not invented by PRC but only accelerated its implementation and also, it was rejected a second round of simplified characters, so one can say that is not just simplify for the sake of simplify.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  20. feng

    feng 榜眼

    Numbers below follow your paragraphs, quotes are from those paragraphs. I am just replying to a few points, though almost every phrase needs attention.

    1) "I think nobody think is impossible to learn it">>> It's not like three people know traditional characters! There are twenty-three million people in Taiwan. Deal with it. Traditional characters are highly learnable; that is as well proven as gravity.

    "you must admit">>> No, I don't need to admit what I find incorrect.
    While I would say that 个 is easier to learn than 個, educated native readers know in the neighborhood of 4,500 to 5,000 characters (based on my research (character surveys), and my experience). If you want to learn that many characters, then seeing them as a system makes things a lot easier, IMHO. When you have that sort of character vocabulary in traditional and simplified, then you will be qualified to have an opinion. If you just want to take two to four years of university Chinese class, then you will never be able to enter the debate in full because you can't understand what is really happening.

    "I can even identify traditional characters that I never seen before without actually trying, by just guessing. " In that case, you are better than most native readers. Amazing!

    Yes, traditional characters on a cell phone can sometimes be a problem. Life is difficult; get tough.

    2) "ROC contemplated using simplified characters" >>> sort of, in the 1930s, for a moment

    The PRC blocked itself internationally. Still does in many ways. Yes, Taiwan got aid, yet there were people so poor there in the 1950s they wore the burlap food sacks from the US as clothing. I am not saying it was common, but it occurred. The PRC was always its own worst enemy. You just have no idea what you are talking about. Taiwan was really poor for many years after WWII. But they emphasized education while the PRC spent 30 years going from witch hunt to witch hunt.

    3) You want simplified characters for 人 and 入? What are you talking about? Yes, people confuse certain characters. I do too. I find the problem far worse with PRC forms, even now. Of course, I confuse the written forms of words in English, my native language. Maybe I am just stupid.

    "Even me, someone that can be said had no hardships at all and have access to education since 4 years old, didn't realize the difference between 人 and 入 " >>> You had access to education NOT in Chinese, so what does that have to do with learning Chinese as a native reader or you now as a foreigner?

    4) First, learn some Korean and Japanese. Second, learn some linguistics. Third, learn about the actual history of the use of Chinese characters in Korea and Japan and the *various* intermediate systems between characters and hangul/kana. You're blabbering on about huge topics that you know nothing about. The various phonetic systems were invented because Korean and Japanese are different LANGUAGES; they are highly inflected, and Chinese is barely inflected at all. Hence, how do you represent those inflections in the writing system? If you bother to research it, you discover it was bloody complicated with Chinese characters.

    Latin (as well as Korean, Japanese, and Chinese) is a language. Chinese characters are a writing system (like the Roman Alphabet or Cuneiform). Latin expanded greatly in its use for about 1,000 years under the Romans. It declined because the Romans, who were the only native speakers, lost control.

    5) Vulgar in vulgar Latin means common, and that's exactly what it is. People who know Latin find the modern Romance languages a breeze to pick up compared to people who don't know Latin. Gosh, I wonder why that is?

    6) Wrong. Traditional characters are formally banned in many contexts such as 99+% of publishing, signage, and education. You should look into The Language Law. They are also widely frowned upon, hence you see posters saying to write in standard (PRC) characters.

    "I guess this disdain is politically motivated" >>> Yeah, the Taiwanese in 2017 are frightened of their government and the people in the PRC are free to do as they choose.

    "simplified chinese was not invented by PRC but only accelerated its implementation and also, it was rejected a second round of simplified characters, so one can say that is not just simplify for the sake of simplify." >>> They put in far more simplified forms than were ever used together in history, in addition to making at least 20% of the PRC simplified forms. The second round of simplification came very close to happening, but it seems they realized they had already messed up the writing system enough.
     

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