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A new form of analphabetism?

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A new form of analphabetism?

Postby astaroth » Mon 01.26.2009 6:59 pm

I had this discussion yesterday with a friend of mine, who lived in China and learned a bit of Chinese. It started talking about the differences between kanji and hanzi in particular stroke order and ended up about the actual necessity of learning how to write. What he told me was that after a bit of struggling with stroke order and writing hanzi, he thought he could keep being able to read and write without knowing how a hanzi should be written. What surprised me the most was that, he told, few of his Chinese friends don't feel the need of calligraphy or simply being able to write on a piece of paper, since they recognize the character and knowing how to pronounce it they can write on a computer.
So my thought was whether this could lead to a new form of analphabetism. When people will be literate because they can read and write (on a computer), but wouldn't know correct stroke order or -- maybe -- how to write a hanzi or kanji on paper.
For me, I really like 書道 (took a course last year which I very much enjoyed) and enjoy learning kanji by stroke order (which I believe helps me in remembering the kanji).

What's your opinion?

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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby Dustin » Mon 01.26.2009 7:04 pm

I have read about this exact problem on these boards before but I do not remember the name for the term.

Personally I think that if they do not feel the need to know how to write them, then good for them. Being a student of Japanese I am finding that the better I know kanji, the more sense certain compounds seem to make. This can be achieved by simply learning to read them yes, but we have MANY MANY years less reading practice than them and the more advantages I can get for this the better.

Learning to write them is taught to them in school in the first place which probably helps retention, I see the same thing with me, if I learn to write it, my retention is much better when reading. I am sure after a certain point I can stop writing, and either only read, or write only on the computer without any problems learning the language, but I hate to be unable to write with a pen and paper.

That's just me though ^^
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby wccrawford » Mon 01.26.2009 9:23 pm

How old are these 'friends'? Because teens often feel they don't need to learn things, and they're usually dead wrong when they say it. They wouldn't say it if someone hadn't told them the opposite, see, and they're just rebelling because they don't see the big picture yet.

Anyhow, that illusion is quickly dashed when they get to college and the teacher makes them put their computers away and takes notes and/or quizzes on paper. Don't get me started on filling out the paperwork for your first job.
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 01.26.2009 9:55 pm

The Japanese term for this is ワープロ馬鹿 (waapuro baka). It usually refers not to someone who literally cannot write a single kanji on a piece of paper, but just the general trend of people's handwriting ability declining because of increased usage of word processors.

I give a big thumbs up to this. I hardly ever need to handwrite characters, and I prefer composing on a computer in both English and Japanese in preference to writing. If I'm writing notes for myself I can always use kana if I don't know how to write a kanji.

Unfortunately, there's a counter situation to this where obscure kanji are being brought back into use because you no longer need to know how to write them, you just have to select them from a menu. I can easily display kanji for things like 薔薇 (rose), 憂鬱 (sadness), 墨西哥 (Mexico), 硝子 (glass), 天麩羅 (tempura), and so on, even though I would not be able to write any of these by hand.
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby keatonatron » Tue 01.27.2009 1:03 am

Whenever you have to fill out forms, it takes a lot longer to look up the kanji to remind yourself how to write it than if you had simply remembered how to write it from the beginning, and it can be embarrassing if someone is looking over your shoulder waiting for you to finish.

Although, it does remind me of my last semester of Japanese language school: my teacher told us "we will still learn the readings of new kanji, but will no longer use class time to practice writing. If there are any kanji that you need to write often in your chosen profession, you will naturally remember them by repetition."

If you never fill out forms, and never take notes, then I guess you don't need to be able to write. Although it is a nice talent to have for one of many "what-if" scenarios... think of it as nature survival- or self-defense training. :D
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby furrykef » Tue 01.27.2009 2:19 am

This is a tad tangential, but I actually kinda have a silly motivation to learn how to write Japanese: I might end up being a manga-ka someday, and I like hand-lettering. (I'm thinking self-published or webcomics here; obviously I don't have any delusions that I could be a successful manga-ka in Japan or something.) Of course you can still hand-letter something while using a computer to look up kanji (in fact I'd probably have the script written on the computer with the proper kanji already there anyway), but of course you can't look up how to write nice and neatly on the computer. ;)

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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby AJBryant » Tue 01.27.2009 9:30 am

I am of like mind to Chris' comments on waapuro baka-ness.

I frequently tell students of Japanese that I can date the downturn in my "fluency" in writing Japanese to the first time I bought a waapuro in Japan in 1986. I think I was able to write more kanji THEN than I can NOW. Sigh.


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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby furrykef » Tue 01.27.2009 11:16 am

I pretty much have to credit my kanji ability -- including my ability to write it -- to my computer. After all, I did use a flash card program to study kanji, and I find such programs far more effective than any possible method that doesn't use a computer that I know of. Technically the Leitner system doesn't require a computer, but it'd be a pain in the ass to do it nearly as well as a computer can, plus you'd have to manage 2042 physical cards (if you're doing RTK1 like I did).

So it could (at least theoretically) eventually happen that I have better kanji production ability than an average Japanese native simply because I specifically practice it and they don't. But of course they're likely to stay well ahead of me in the kanji recognition department unless I also specifically try to outdo them in that department -- which certainly is doable, of course, but only at the expense of not having time to study areas that are more important from a practical standpoint.

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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby astaroth » Tue 01.27.2009 6:13 pm

wccrawford wrote:How old are these 'friends'? Because teens often feel they don't need to learn things, and they're usually dead wrong when they say it. They wouldn't say it if someone hadn't told them the opposite, see, and they're just rebelling because they don't see the big picture yet.

They were in their upper twenties, so I think the whole teens don't like to study doesn't apply here. The situation, I think, is more after mandatory education with well-educated and literate people. (By the way, I was surprised too, when I heard about their ages ...)

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The Japanese term for this is ワープロ馬鹿 (waapuro baka). It usually refers not to someone who literally cannot write a single kanji on a piece of paper, but just the general trend of people's handwriting ability declining because of increased usage of word processors.

Interesting. But my question is then: relying on ワープロ or word processors and then being able to use more "sophisticated" kanji would make the writing harder to read and understand? That is I read that apple, りんご is usually written in kana but on a computer one can easily find the kanji 林檎, then because the kanji is seldom used will the writing be hard to understand? (apple is only an example ...)
Also, may this be one of the reason they're considering updating the 常用漢字 list? And should I be worried when I'll take the JLPT? :)
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 01.27.2009 7:02 pm

lucagrisa wrote:Interesting. But my question is then: relying on ワープロ or word processors and then being able to use more "sophisticated" kanji would make the writing harder to read and understand? That is I read that apple, りんご is usually written in kana but on a computer one can easily find the kanji 林檎, then because the kanji is seldom used will the writing be hard to understand? (apple is only an example ...)


I think so. The more rare/unusual kanji used, the more difficult something is to read (well, that's one factor in the difficulty.)
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby Feba » Tue 02.03.2009 2:33 pm

Well you can see it right here, with people going 今日は!

Personally, I've literally been using computers longer than I can remember. I'm a good typist, but my handwriting has definitely suffered. Being a typist is more useful for me-- I have to actually write things down maybe every few months-- but my handwriting in English (my native language) would make doctors blush.

I could see this being a much larger problem in Chinese than Japanese, though. In Japanese you always have katakana, hiragana, or even romaji to fall back on. I've heard of using Hanzi to represent sounds in Chinese (such as foreign brand names), but I have to imagine it would lead to confusion to replace words with other ones that sound like them.
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Re: A new form of analphabetism?

Postby astaroth » Tue 02.03.2009 4:01 pm

Feba wrote:Well you can see it right here, with people going 今日は!

It actually took me a while to realize that こんにちは is usually written only in kana. I guess it was the hitting-space-bar-without-thinking thing.
Feba wrote:Personally, I've literally been using computers longer than I can remember. I'm a good typist, but my handwriting has definitely suffered. Being a typist is more useful for me-- I have to actually write things down maybe every few months-- but my handwriting in English (my native language) would make doctors blush.

Personally I usually prefer handwriting over typing. Probably it's because I've no external distractions like internet, emails, and such.
Feba wrote:I've heard of using Hanzi to represent sounds in Chinese (such as foreign brand names), but I have to imagine it would lead to confusion to replace words with other ones that sound like them.

I don't know how much confusions for foreigners, but my Chinese friends were telling me that it's pretty straightforward to write foreign words in hanzi using a subset of all the character. (I'm assuming this was taught to them in school.)
Also kana being a simplified version of kanji could be considered a subset of the kanji. I'm wondering whether Chinese might evolve in the same direction, simplifying the hanzi used phonetically towards something like the kana-system in Japanese.
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