Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A question of character?

There's an interesting discussion going on over on the chinesepod blog about when to start learning the Chinese character set (han4zi4). As ususal I can only speak from my very limited experience, but here's how things have been explained to me:

If you plan on going to China, you had better start learning the writing. Although road signs are apparently also in pinyin, everything else is written in hanzi. But writing and language are two different things. The primary resource is the spoken language - the writing is supported by that.

What my teacher has done is to expose us to characters, allow us to learn them as we go along, but not expect us to read without the help of pinyin. Not yet anyway.

I've heard pinyin described as a crutch. I'd describe it more like a way into the heart of the spoken language for those who are used to a phoenetic alphabet. Once you're in there and comfortable in your surroundings, then you can connect the hanzi to the words that you've already learned, and start to learn new words directly in hanzi.

1 comment:

Seal&Vito said...

i dont know why they use pinyin everywhere. it looks so funny to me. i just couldnt stp laughing when i saw it on road signs.