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I was surprised to learn that the Japanese and Chinese can understand each other through kanjis. And that Japanese is now the custodian of kanjis after the simplification imposed by the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 05:43:37 AM EST
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I was surprised to learn that the Japanese and Chinese can understand each other through kanjis.

Yes, it's quite common for Japanese tourists in China and Chinese tourists in Japan to communicate in this way.

(By the way, note that 漢字 is transcribed as kanji and hànzi [pronounced HAN-zuh] in Mandarin.)

And that Japanese is now the custodian of kanjis after the simplification imposed by the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Well, Chinese in Taiwan still uses "traditional" -- i.e. pre-simplication -- characters, which can be more complicated than the Japanese versions.

For example, the character for "to read" is:

讀 in traditional characters (used in Taiwan)
読 in Japanese
读 in simplified characters (used in mainland China)

Sometimes the traditional and Japanese are the same.  For example, the character for "Chinese; Han dynasty" (the kan in kanji and the hàn in hanzi) is:

漢 in traditional or Japanese
汉 in simplified

And sometimes the Japanese and the simplified are the same, but the traditional remains more complex.  For example, the character for "country" is:

國 in traditional
国 in Japanese or simplified

Having studied Japanese before Chinese (using simplified characters), I initially found the simplified version of the characters an appalling abuse upon the language.  But becoming more familiar with them, I realize more and more just how well the simplification was conceived from a pedagogical point of view (facilitating learning based on superficial commonalities or similarities in character components and pronunciations) and appreciate how this must have helped significantly in accelerating the literatization of the gigantic Chinese population.  For all of Mao's abominations, this is one thing I think he can be praised for (another being the bringing up of women's status in Chinese society).

Still, it is a pity that the richness and complexity of traditional Chinese characters had to be sacrificed for the pressing, practical concerns of rapidly educating the population.  I dream that some day China may revert back to traditional characters, both officially and in practice, maybe as part of a campaign to restore different aspects of traditional Chinese culture in general.  This may not be as crazy as it sounds on the face of it, as most Chinese can read traditional characters easily enough anyway, and often are used to doing so from watching TV shows, movies, and karaoke videos with subtitles added in Taiwan.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 06:45:33 AM EST
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I have read that those foreigners who learn simplified chinese have an easier time picking up traditional chinese than the other way around.

Ideograms are a great obstacle to acquiring literacy and Supposedly simplified chinese makes it easier. This is not a trivial matter. According to adition Korea's script was designed by an old ruler also for the purpose of aiding literacy.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 07:02:35 AM EST
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I have read that those foreigners who learn simplified chinese have an easier time picking up traditional chinese than the other way around.

I really hope so!  In fact, I was struggling back in September with how to advise a friend of mine who was just starting to learn Mandarin in Taiwan, where he had the option of studying in traditional vs. simplified characters.  I really did not know what to tell him, because after two months of study, it was already clear to me that learning simplified was significantly easier than traditional.  However, it was also quite clear that by learning simplified, you lose an enormous amount of information about the etymology among and thus "deep" relationships between characters.

Come to think of it, I never found out which one he decided to study.  As for my myself, had I been given the choice, I would have started studying traditional, but being on the mainland, I had no such choice.  But in a way, I am sort of grateful now that I am studying simplified, as it is already such an immense task to learn the other aspects of Chinese (grammar, listening comprehension, vocabulary, etc.)  It would be great if what you read about learning simplified vs. traditional first turns out to be correct!

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 01:45:31 PM EST
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