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do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 11.12.2007 1:52 pm

I believe they start with Pinyin (roman letters). But it's pretty much true that children are functionally illiterate until they acquire enough characters to be able to read normal things.
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby enji » Mon 11.12.2007 3:33 pm

Wow, interesting thread. Here's my experience anyway:

In elementary school, we only started learning Pinyin in our second year. So in the first year, we were taught to recognise the characters themselves. Learning Chinese requires some or maybe lots of memorisation. We have exercise books which requires us to write characters over and over again (like how you practise writing kana I guess) in square-ruled pages, this is the homework I hated the most. :@ This is usually followed by dictation in which the teacher will read out the words and we were supposed to write down the characters from memory. It is pure repetition until the characters got stuck in our head. Oh, and before we learn how to write the characters, we learn how to write the strokes first and their names.

Things became easier once you learned Pinyin. Our textbooks have texts with Pinyin below the characters.

It was such a long time ago that I don't really remember how I pick up the language. I learned the simplified Chinese in school and picked up traditional Chinese along the way. I can read traditional Chinese but practically can't write them since homeworks were always written in simplified Chinese.
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby everdream » Mon 11.12.2007 4:17 pm

^May I ask, out of interest how many kanji you learnt throughout your school life, and how many a year?
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby enji » Tue 11.13.2007 1:38 am

I have never keep count of the number of characters I learnt or know, probably in the thousands I guess. So I can't say how many I learnt a year as well, for sure it got less and less as I moved into a higher year in school. Most of the learning were done in the first 3 years though. Other than that, I picked up new vocabulary through other subjects like Math, Science etc as well. Just for a rough guide, before the end of elementary school, some of us were already reading novels, which are usually written in traditional Chinese.
Last edited by enji on Tue 11.13.2007 2:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby Kdar » Tue 11.13.2007 11:34 pm

What about slang and other non standard words.

How do you write it in Chinese?
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby enji » Wed 11.14.2007 4:34 am

Actually most of the slang or non standard words come from other Chinese dialects, so we just use the equivalent characters for mandarin. It's wrong in mandarin but correct in the dialects. I noticed that the Taiwanese use zhuyin to write non standard words (usually from dialect as well) but I don't know how widespread is that.

A thing to note is that slang and non standard words differ among regions. So this may not reflect the overall picture. People tend to avoid usage of slang words on public sites as well.

Oh, and the above is from my perspective; coming from a community where multiple languages (including a few Chinese dialects) are spoken. ;)
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 11.14.2007 9:03 am

You can find at least one (usually a lot more than one) character for any syllable in Chinese, so you can write anything you can say -- it's just a matter of picking some characters to represent whatever it is.
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RE: do Chinese use letters or only kanji!???

Postby enji » Wed 11.14.2007 11:05 am

Yup, what Yudan-san said is right. But when no such character exist, we usually resort to pinyin. If the word is originally from another language, the original spelling will be used. Usually slang and non standard words are toned down a lot in written form when compared to speech.

Anyway, I guess what I written above is difficult to grasp without example. So here goes nothing.

The romanisation of dialects will be based on pinyin since I don't really know how to do it. Two examples which I can think off right now:

好彩 -- pronounced as hao2 cai3 in mandarin. In Cantonese, hou2 coi2.
够力 -- pronounced as gou4 li4 in mandarin. In Hokkien, gao1 lat4.

Both words are ungrammatical in mandarin. We just borrow their usage for mandarin although there are usually words with equivalent meaning in mandarin but written with different characters. :p
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