Making traditional characters legible

Hi. A few days ago I started learning how to write traditional characters, after only having studied simplified before. However, I’m struggling a bit with making them legible. Sometimes I wonder how all of those strokes possibly can fit in the space of normal-sized lines in a normal A5 notebook. Am I supposed to buy a paper with bigger space between lines?

How do you guys do it?

Also, I really can’t for the life of me understand why anyone ever would rather write 麼 instead of 么, political aspects aside. But that’s just me. :laughing:

[quote=“Sko”]Hi. A few days ago I started learning how to write traditional characters, after only having studied simplified before. However, I’m struggling a bit with making them legible. Sometimes I wonder how all of those strokes possibly can fit in the space of normal-sized lines in a normal A5 notebook. Am I supposed to buy a paper with bigger space between lines?

How do you guys do it?

Also, I really can’t for the life of me understand why anyone ever would rather write 麼 instead of 么, political aspects aside. But that’s just me. :laughing:[/quote]

For those who learned the traditional characters since childhood, simplified characters look deformed and incomplete. So, a lot of us will not likely use them very much. For example, I will never use "面“ to mean noodle.

I guess it is somewhat similar to English users choosing between “through”, and “thru”; or “with” and “w/”. Many will likely never use the simplified form.

A fine-point pen is a help (seriously).

Also, not everyone who uses Traditional characters “exclusively” really does. Many of us write common simplified forms as abbreviations or easier, quicker forms. Many of these are forms that have been around for centuries, long before the formal simplification process began in the PRC.

[quote=“fh2000”]
For those who learned the traditional characters since childhood, simplified characters look deformed and incomplete. So, a lot of us will not likely use them very much. For example, I will never use "面“ to mean noodle.

I guess it is somewhat similar to English users choosing between “through”, and “thru”; or “with” and “w/”. Many will likely never use the simplified form.[/quote]
Yea, I suppose that makes sense. My view is obviously the one of an outsider so I will probably never understand the whole debate fully.

[quote=“ironlady”]A fine-point pen is a help (seriously).

Also, not everyone who uses Traditional characters “exclusively” really does. Many of us write common simplified forms as abbreviations or easier, quicker forms. Many of these are forms that have been around for centuries, long before the formal simplification process began in the PRC.[/quote]
I have a 0.5mm pen, it’s still not really enough. Or rather, I don’t know if it is, really. I don’t have anyone around me who knows traditional character to help me with them, and tell me how mine look. Every Chinese-speaker I know only knows the simplified system. They can read traditional but they can’t tell me if I’m writing correctly or not since they’ve never really looked at them so closely before.

[quote=“ironlady”]A fine-point pen is a help (seriously).

Also, not everyone who uses Traditional characters “exclusively” really does. Many of us write common simplified forms as abbreviations or easier, quicker forms. Many of these are forms that have been around for centuries, long before the formal simplification process began in the PRC.[/quote]

Right. If you read much handwriting here you’ll see that quickly.

It takes a lot of practice to find your hand Sko. People here write endless rows of characters as a kid in doing so. You may never get comfortable if you don’t do something similar. The more you write the sooner you’ll get there.

Oh are you paying attention to stroke order?

[quote=“Tempo Gain”][quote=“ironlady”]A fine-point pen is a help (seriously).

Also, not everyone who uses Traditional characters “exclusively” really does. Many of us write common simplified forms as abbreviations or easier, quicker forms. Many of these are forms that have been around for centuries, long before the formal simplification process began in the PRC.[/quote]

Right. If you read much handwriting here you’ll see that quickly.

It takes a lot of practice to find your hand Sko. People here write endless rows of characters as a kid in doing so. You may never get comfortable if you don’t do something similar. The more you write the sooner you’ll get there.

Oh are you paying attention to stroke order?[/quote]
I pay a lot of attention to stroke order. I didn’t in the beginning until I got told that it was a waste of time not to because I would write the characters differently every time, thus my muscles would never really get used to writing the most common parts of characters. I would simply learn slower and even write slower, she said.

Yea, I realize that a lot of practice is needed. I’m trying to write characters at least a few hours a week a normal school week, about 5-7 characters per sitting, and now during Christmas holidays I’ve been writing about 1.5-2 hours a day. My hopes are that I’ll have a good base for when I get to Taiwan this coming fall. Sadly, I had already wasted quite a bit of time learning simplified characters before I realized that I wanted to go to Taiwan :confused:

I am, however, still trying to figure out why anyone would devote that kind of time to learning to write by hand from memory. It’s just not a 21st century skill, even for most native speakers (outside of common things like name, address, and stuff to fill out forms and write birthday cards.)

Because I think it is fun and I think it helps to remember how to read them too. Some people want to learn calligraphy and so they want to devote time to learning to write by hand.

Hmm, I want to make it easier for me when I get to Taiwan, I suppose. My teachers probably will want me to be able to write. Also, as Meng Lelan said, I kind of like writing Chinese. I think characters are cool, haha.

But anyways, if I would ever make Taiwan or China my home, am I then not expected to be able to write Chinese? And when I tell a Chinese speaker I speak Chinese, will they not assume that I can write it as well?

Edit: I do realize, however, that I will forget how to write most characters when I stop writing them. That will probably happen as soon as I get home again to study for a degree here in Sweden. I’m still trying to figure out a way to keep my writing skills without having to continue devoting so much time to it.

You might want to try Skritter. I had the same situation as you, I found myself not writing much and forgetting a lot which I didn’t like, so I tried Skritter and it helps me a lot.

Hm, this is kind of similar to an SRS program, right? I tried the demo, and it seemed pretty good, but I actually just started using Anki for this purpose. For being reminded of the characters I learn every once and a while. Would you say that there are advantages of this program over using Anki? I have noticed that, since Anki doesn’t really take into account that writing characters and remembering other things is quite different, so it’s not working optimally, I have to admit. So there’s one advantage that Skritter has. Would you say that there are other things that makes it better? I lost my credit card Friday 2 weeks ago and with all these holidays in the past week I still haven’t received my new one, so I can’t try the 7 day trial until I get that.

I’m certainly willing to try this! I’m just curious about what it is that makes it worth $15/month over Anki, which is free.

I’ve never done Anki. What I like about Skritter is I can make up word lists of my own or use word lists others have made. I can choose simpl, trad, or both. I could do Japanese too if I wanted to. They can show you how each character can be broken down, mnemonics, sentence models etc. You can see how many reviews are due up and how your progress is going. It makes you think about stroke order and direction. You can try it for seven days then see what you think. They had a pretty deep discount before rolling out the iPad apps a few weeks ago so I went out for two years service at 50% off because I spend like 30 min a day on that thing, it’s pretty addictive. Usually I will use my desktop for whatever wordlist I am wanting to catch up on then if I’m just bored standing in long lines later then I take out my iPhone and catch up on general reviews.

Too bad I don’t have an iPhone!

Do you write by hand as well? Is that not important for the muscle memory to be trained? How many characters can you learn in one of those half hours?

I must say, this sounds very promising.

I think they are coming out with Android apps. Yes I have to write by hand because I teach. Usually use a blackboard or an opaque overhead projector to write out things for the class. Each day varies in terms of how many characters I can learn. Sometimes I learn 20 new characters sometimes just 5, depends on how efficient I feel like.

What I meant was more, do you write to practise? As a complement to Skritter.

That was good advice.

As for writing, a few months of practice and it’ll become second nature. But like Ironlady said many people will write characters in a hybrid way, sometimes with commonly used abbreviated characters, sometimes with their own personal simplifications.

[quote=“Sko”]
Hmm, I want to make it easier for me when I get to Taiwan, I suppose. My teachers probably will want me to be able to write. Also, as Meng Lelan said, I kind of like writing Chinese. I think characters are cool, haha.

But anyways, if I would ever make Taiwan or China my home, am I then not expected to be able to write Chinese? And when I tell a Chinese speaker I speak Chinese, will they not assume that I can write it as well?

Edit: I do realize, however, that I will forget how to write most characters when I stop writing them. That will probably happen as soon as I get home again to study for a degree here in Sweden. I’m still trying to figure out a way to keep my writing skills without having to continue devoting so much time to it.[/quote]

You are right. It is of course easy to dismiss written Chinese as a useless skill, but for English, nobody would think that a totally fluent speaker cannot write.
For Chinese (and Japanese, too), it is also considered much better to be able to write.

Of course, you will likely never be able to write everything without any help. If you are completely fluent, it is hardly imaginable that you can write every character without ever forgetting them. But this is not a problem, because you can use your cell phone or an electronic dictionary to look it up.
The goal with written Chinese is rather to have a handwriting which does not look like a school child, and also to minimize the time you need for looking something up.

[quote=“Hellstorm”]
You are right. It is of course easy to dismiss written Chinese as a useless skill, but for English, nobody would think that a totally fluent speaker cannot write.
For Chinese (and Japanese, too), it is also considered much better to be able to write.[/quote]

Who cares “what is considered”? The important thing is what is right for the individual.
If someone is interested in learning to write by hand from memory, and has the hours and hours and HOURS required to do that, fine. Great. Go for it.
But for (I daresay) most students, this just isn’t a crucial skill.

Even in the US, people rarely write by hand outside of school. Anything of any length is written on a computer. I had to write an essay by hand with a pencil on the teacher’s exam a few years back and I thought my hand would fall off…

I’ve surveyed people in Taiwan – 150 of them – and they reported that they did not write anything by hand other than phone messages, filling out forms, sending greeting cards, and writing shopping lists. Everything else was done on the computer – UNLESS they were students in school. So school in Taiwan is now the only place that is requiring people to write by hand from memory, preparing them for – what? Yes, it’s traditional, and I’m not saying Taiwanese people shouldn’t do it, but for the average foreigner who is not aiming to become a primary school teacher in Taiwan, handwriting by memory isn’t a needed skill, and far too much time is typically spent on it in early-level classes – time that could be better used getting people fluent. Fluent people tend to have the time and interest to learn to write by hand later, but people who “wash out” of Mandarin believing it’s too difficult and requires too much study and memorization – often because of being given huge lists of characters to memorize – rarely go back later and become fluent.

[quote=“R_jay”]That was good advice.

As for writing, a few months of practice and it’ll become second nature. But like Ironlady said many people will write characters in a hybrid way, sometimes with commonly used abbreviated characters, sometimes with their own personal simplifications.[/quote]
Yea, I thought what she said made sense too. Do you really think it’ll only take a few months? I mean, I understand that you don’t mean that I will have learned every character by then, but do you mean that it’ll become easier to learn new ones, or what do you mean?

[quote=“Hellstorm”]

You are right. It is of course easy to dismiss written Chinese as a useless skill, but for English, nobody would think that a totally fluent speaker cannot write.
For Chinese (and Japanese, too), it is also considered much better to be able to write.

Of course, you will likely never be able to write everything without any help. If you are completely fluent, it is hardly imaginable that you can write every character without ever forgetting them. But this is not a problem, because you can use your cell phone or an electronic dictionary to look it up.
The goal with written Chinese is rather to have a handwriting which does not look like a school child, and also to minimize the time you need for looking something up.[/quote]
That makes a lot of sense actually, and since I probably won’t write very much, as Ironlady says, especially not without access to stuff like what you mentioned. So it’s not really important whether I forget a character here and there or not.

[quote=“ironlady”][quote=“Hellstorm”]
You are right. It is of course easy to dismiss written Chinese as a useless skill, but for English, nobody would think that a totally fluent speaker cannot write.
For Chinese (and Japanese, too), it is also considered much better to be able to write.[/quote]

Who cares “what is considered”? The important thing is what is right for the individual.
If someone is interested in learning to write by hand from memory, and has the hours and hours and HOURS required to do that, fine. Great. Go for it.
But for (I daresay) most students, this just isn’t a crucial skill.

Even in the US, people rarely write by hand outside of school. Anything of any length is written on a computer. I had to write an essay by hand with a pencil on the teacher’s exam a few years back and I thought my hand would fall off…

I’ve surveyed people in Taiwan – 150 of them – and they reported that they did not write anything by hand other than phone messages, filling out forms, sending greeting cards, and writing shopping lists. Everything else was done on the computer – UNLESS they were students in school. So school in Taiwan is now the only place that is requiring people to write by hand from memory, preparing them for – what? Yes, it’s traditional, and I’m not saying Taiwanese people shouldn’t do it, but for the average foreigner who is not aiming to become a primary school teacher in Taiwan, handwriting by memory isn’t a needed skill, and far too much time is typically spent on it in early-level classes – time that could be better used getting people fluent. Fluent people tend to have the time and interest to learn to write by hand later, but people who “wash out” of Mandarin believing it’s too difficult and requires too much study and memorization – often because of being given huge lists of characters to memorize – rarely go back later and become fluent.[/quote]
I’m pretty sure I’ll become fluent either way, learning how to write is a lot of extra, perhaps unnecessary, work, but I love studying Chinese and I want to learn all the different parts of it. If that means I need to put these extra hours in, I will.

If you can’t write characters by hand it will impossible to pass HSK, and no HSK means your Chinese ability will not be recognized when applying for jobs or higher studies. It sucks but that’s the way it is.