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Wired Youths In China & Japan Forget Character Forms 508

eldavojohn writes "The AFP brings a story of a growing concern that children in China and Japan suffer from 'character amnesia' when asked to write the complex characters they are so used to inputting via alphabet-based systems. The article claims this is a growing problem. In China, they have a word for it: 'tibiwangzi,' which means 'take pen, forget paper.' China Youth Daily polled 2,072 people and found that 83% have problems writing characters (although there's no indication if that was an online poll or not). A young woman who was interviewed explained her workaround: 'When I can't remember, I will take out my cellphone and find it (the character) and then copy it down.'"
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Wired Youths In China & Japan Forget Character Forms

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  • by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:12AM (#33390138)

    I have a similar problem with writing anything with pen and paper. My handwriting was never very pretty, but now not only is it ugly, I also feel very awkward and uncomfortable whenever I have to actually write anything.

  • Time to change? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VincenzoRomano ( 881055 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:21AM (#33390174) Homepage Journal
    Maybe it's time to make some change in these cultures.
    Either forget the alphabet based systems or the one based upon "complex" glyphs.
    This already happened several times in the world history, both on the east and the west.
  • Ummmm (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:32AM (#33390214)

    Perhaps then this is an indication you need to simplify your written language?

    Seriously, languages are living, changing, things. We shouldn't stick with something in a language just because "That's how it's always been." There are things in languages that are silly, and changing them can be a good thing. Now I realize something as complected as the character set used isn't a thing you can change overnight, but it is something to work towards. Work on simplification.

    A simple example of a language that did that is German. They had a 27th character called the es-zett which looks like a beta. It was used for a dual s. It has been deprecated, and now you just use two s characters instead.

    There is really something to be said of a Latin-like character set where you don't have a whole lot of characters, and they are fairly distinct (though there are a few Latin characters that could use improvement in that regard).

    More or less if we are finding things that kids are having trouble with in terms of penmanship, the answer isn't to try and force a lot more penmanship training on them, since it really isn't that useful in life these days. The answer is to look at trying to modify characters to make them easier to write. After all, that really should be the point. Our language is just a means for us to communicate ideas. Shouldn't it be made as simple and as clear as practical?

  • Ha, me too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:35AM (#33390228) Homepage

    I have been living in China for some years now and I hardly ever handwrite characters. I can recognize them and read (some) but it's a real relief to use input methods instead of handwriting. Despite what you may have heard, Asian input methods are quite good these days and the age of 5 words per minute for an experienced typist are long past. One one hand, it's a relief as writing is by far the most tedious and non-fun part of learning Chinese. I'm glad to skip it and concentrate on other fields. Typically adult learners of Chinese sit and fill pages upon pages of notebooks with characters written again and again. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing would be my ranking of the four skills. It's I know several people who can speak quite well but can't read, as well as some people who have quite nice penmanship but can barely speak. It's actually a pity as calligraphy is part of traditional Confucian culture. Every man of wealth and taste is supposed to sit in his garden and write with a paintbrush in his spare time, along with playing Go, writing poetry, and the other Four Olds [] that the government stamped out back in the days of culture-annihilating socialism.

    For what it's worth, my English handwriting isn't that good either. How often do I even write English these days? Not much!

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:36AM (#33390232)

    If you ask my mother to spell a word, she often can't. If you ask her to write it, she'll spell it correctly. If you ask me to write a word, I may not be able to spell it, but I can type it with the correct spelling[1]. This isn't a problem for me, because I type more words in a typical day than I write with a pen in a typical year. It wasn't a problem for her, because being able to spell words aloud is not actually a useful skill (except in the USA).

    The fact that both you and your mother can faithfully reproduce the spelling of a word in one form but not another suggests that you both lack the ability to visualize the word that you're about to reproduce through writing or typing. While spelling a word aloud may not be a useful skill, the ability to visualize what is in your mind is extremely useful. Being unable to do that is actually a deficiency.

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:41AM (#33390254)

    My wife has cursive that is next to unintelligible, even for herself. When she writes a shopping list, it's just annoying and occasionally comedic. The problem is that lives hang daily on her written word, because she's a paediatric oncologist.

    My writing has improved markedly since I quit being a doctor because I don't feel the pressure to spew it onto the page as fast as possible because the paperwork is consuming valuable time that I could be using to do something useful. On the other hand, I type a hell of a lot faster than I ever wrote. But if I need something to be 100% legible, I print. In blocks.

  • You are wrong (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:51AM (#33390300)

    Modern Chinese has a HUGE Vocabulary, which is based on phonetically similar/equal "words" (= 1 Chinese Character), which is used in different contexts. Chinese Characters eliminate the ambiguity of the spoken language (better: ask Japanese!) and are a breeze/pleasure to read for native speakers (even at a young age). There are countries like Vietnam and Korea that did away with Chinese Characters, and of course the language is still alive, but I think its save to say that Chinese Characters have not turned out to be the obstacle to widespread literacy as which they were perceived of by the modernists in the late 19th and early 20th century.

    If anything, the arrival of the digital age means, that more persons can write chinese easier and faster, by outsourcing the "recall" part of the memory process to the recognition part (pinyin input gives you possible characters combinations, you read them and select the one that represents what you wanted to say). THAT is the evolutionary step the language has taken, and which the article is talking about, and I wouldn't consider it especially worrisome.

    By the way, the German sz is fine and alive, the reform only reduced its frequency of usage, but didn't eliminate it completely.

  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:51AM (#33390306) Homepage

    Thank gawd English is a one-to-two keys to characters mapping at most.
    Years ago, I wrote from scratch, a sort of enhanced pinyin entry system for myself. It provided additional hints for the language learner.

    The program loads all characters into memory, sorted alphabetically by pinyin. That way, it's fast enough to keep up with your typing.
    When I wrote it, I just couldn't help thinking that these logographic languages do not belong in the information technology age, and that powerful evolutionary forces would be acting on them. Apparently this was correct, as per this article.
    Strangely enough, my girlfriend who is a native mandarin speaker, also found my language learner program useful, but with the pinyin mapping swapped out for wubi. It's another entry system based on strokes and totally unintelligible to myself.

    One day I might get around to porting that pile of pascal, into something more modern, and a linux GUI toolkit so I can run it natively.

  • Re:Ummmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:00AM (#33390336)

    Perhaps then this is an indication you need to simplify your written language?

    Perhaps, perhaps not.

    Computers have introduced something quite extraordinary and unexpected into written language technology -- asymmetric input and output.

    While alphabetic writing has always been considered more economical in terms of learning and ease-of-use, pictographs have always been more efficient in terms of space. When the Romans invented the codex (book, more or less), they didn't reduce the need for paper, but they found a way to make large amounts of paper more manageable. The Chinese, on the other hand, were still using scrolls and the like and needed to keep the bulk down, so stuck with the more space-efficient writing method.

    In a computer, data is cheap (at the Unicode level, anyway), so what's your benchmark of efficiency now? Ease of reading would suggest alphabet, but screen real-estate favours ideographs. And on mobile phones, data isn't so cheap -- isn't SMS the world's most expensive data transfer? -- so ideographs are massively more efficient to the consumer.

    With Latin entry and ideograph display, we get the best of two worlds -- efficient production for the writer, efficient display for the device. Is this asymmetry more efficient overall? We'll just have to wait and see....


  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:14AM (#33390368) Homepage

    This is not true. Chinese characters are formed in a logical way. It is not difficult to memorize how to write them. In fact, I have found that it is faster for me to learn to write and read than it is to learn just to read. Once I remember how to write a character I don't confuse it with others. I once thought like you and simply memorized the overall shape of the characters. But complex characters always frustrated me. Also, handwriting was often illegible to me. I have found that many people's handwriting is only understandable if you recognize the character by stroke order.

    Granted, I am not doing Chinese, but rather Japanese. So there are slightly fewer common characters. And it is traditional rather than simplified characters. However, I don't think it will make much difference. If you work at it every day, you should probably be able to get the 3000 or so (not sure how many you need for literacy in Chinese) characters in a little over a year (i.e., learning less than 10 a day -- using a spaced repetition program will help enormously).

    BTW, for anyone learning these languages, I have found it is faster to learn to write and read vocabulary with Chinese characters than it is to learn it phonetically. I suspect this is even more true of Chinese since there aren't large numbers of readings for each character. The less shortcuts I take, the faster I go it seems.

  • by pegdhcp ( 1158827 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:22AM (#33390404)

    I know this is a painful subject for some Chinese: Isn't it time that Chinese became an alphabetic language?

    From the experience: No, never... In Turkey we switched from Arabic Script to Latin, nearly 80 years ago. A more simpler switch than your proposed "from characters to letters" switch. We lost all written history overnight. Yes, there are lots of people who still can read Arabic, but not the general population, I cannot read notes behind photos of my grandparents, I cannot read registration papers of our ancestral family home... It was a political decision back then, justified by the ease of learning Latin alphabet, but more harm done than benefits.

  • Re:Time to change? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shikaisi ( 1816846 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:38AM (#33390460)
    On the contrary, it's Western alphabetic systems that become difficult to read over time. Because they write the sound, when the sound changes, the written word has to change. You may not find Shakespeare too difficult, but try Chaucer and you will probably struggle. Try reading an Anglo-Saxon tale like Beowulf and you will most likely understand next to nothing. But because the Chinese system writes the meaning and not the sound, when the sound changes, the character stays the same. Even I, a stupid foreigner, can pick up a book of poems from the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD) and read it without much more difficulty than a modern book.

    Once you know the simplified characters, it really isn't much of a stretch to figure out the traditional characters. Many characters are identical in both systems and those that have been changed have generally followed a fairly consistent set of rules. Reading the traditional characters on the songs from Taiwan at the karaoke doesn't take a huge effort (I believe this is probably the main way in which the traditional characters are being kept alive on the mainland).

  • by daniorerio ( 1070048 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:43AM (#33390484)
    That would be awesome on Android based phones with touchscreens, specially if you can just start drawing characters and it will recognize them like in this site: []
  • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:50AM (#33390496) Homepage Journal
    If you only wanted to become basically proficient at reading it (not writing it, or reading at speed), Arabic script isn't that hard to learn, is it? A couple of weekends, perhaps. And going to a Latin alphabet makes your country much more accessible for others who use Latin script (and correspondingly more difficult for those who use Arabic script, but I believe that was Ataturk's point). Written Chinese takes ages to learn well, so presumably there's a real advantage on the learner's end to switching.
  • by luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:20AM (#33390626) Homepage

    I have a similar problem with writing anything with pen and paper. My handwriting was never very pretty, but now not only is it ugly, I also feel very awkward and uncomfortable whenever I have to actually write anything.

    You beat me to it. In the country I come from (like many other countries) we had daily calligraphy sessions for the duration of elementary and part of middle school. My calligraphy was decent and was already a trained typist (when we used to train people to use mechanical type writers).

    But things have been going down the hill for the last 13 years (started avidly using/working with computers since 1992). My calligraphy has gone down hill, and what is more stressing, when I write by hand I'm starting to write letters out of order. Say I want to hand write "literacy", I end up writing "ilterayc" or something like that. My hand-written notes are full of black outs and corrections because of this. This has never happened before, at least as far as I can remember from my pre-computer times (I was already an adult writing by hands for years before my "dark" path into the computer world.)

    I doesn't stress me out, but it does makes me wonder. And this news from China and Japan makes me even the more curious about this and the effect of computers in daily hand writing. Be it kanji or latin, heavy computer usage certainly seems to have a negative effect in basic writing skills.

  • Re:Time to change? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:36AM (#33390682)

    You got it bang on with the culture bit.

    The "simplified" system is simply an ABOMINATION. The so-called rules for simplifying characters are also inconsistent - for example, many characters with similar forms are "simplified" in different ways - and this is especially bad considering that the way the traditional characters are written is logical and makes a lot of sense - each part of the character "structure" really does mean something, related in some ways to what the character means, sounds or represents. On the other hand, with alphabet-based input systems you gain absolutely nothing by "simplifying" the characters. Frankly the simplified characters just look so ugly I hate them with a passion and refuse to regard them as true Chinese characters. This "invention" by the Communists simply destroys culture, much like all the other horrible things they did to the country and its people back then.

  • Re:Ummmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @07:55AM (#33390780) Homepage

    Oh, that's rich. A suggestion from a Westerner on how Asians can improve their culture.

    Actually, that's the whole problem right there. The only reason to keep the spectacularly inefficient Chinese writing system is to consider it part of the culture. Yes, language is always part of the culture, but the writing system is viewed by most of the rest of the world as a tool for recording the language. If your tool is woefully inefficient and takes a lifetime of studying to use it correctly, well, I suspect those are pretty good indications that you should change it. Sure the fact that it looks pretty and/or elaborate compared to other writing systems means it is easier to categorize as part of your culture, but how about leaving it to the few who are interested in studying culture and adopting a more efficient system that is easier to learn thus can increase the literacy level?
    And I am not exactly another "Westerner" who doesn't know what culture is saying this. In fact I come, from another really old culture and I can read 2500 year old texts as they are pretty close to the language I speak now, including a similar alphabet. How is this a counter-example if my own language has kept the same alphabet for thousands of years? Well, it hasn't. The earliest Greek (at least the earliest identified) was written in the Linear B script which is part syllabic, part ideographic. Around the 9th century B.C.E. the Ancient Greek alphabet was adopted, probably because the Hellenic people of the time recognized that the Phoenicians had developed a much better writing system and so they adapted it to their language. This is the earliest alphabet I can hope to read, however apart from some letters being dropped due to misuse, it continue to adopt advances in writing systems. So, it quickly became left to right instead of left->right->left (boustrophedon) etc, then it started to have spaces between words, then it got the lower case variant and so on.
    Now you might say that I am proposing to the Chinese what felt right to my ancestors. However I have good experience of most current writing systems as it was my job at some point to implement text entry in most of the worlds writing systems, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean ..even Klingon. And that actually brings me to Korean. Koreans are an example of people who used the chinese writing system. Well, over 500 years ago they decided they had enough and invented Hangeul, which is a really interesting writing system. In fact, the Korean writing system is alphabetic, with the letters arranged in syllable squares. The result is that they still look nice, perhaps even similar to Chinese for the untrained eye, yet they have all the benefits of the alphabetic scripts, plus my Korean friends swear that the syllable arrangement allows them to read even faster than if they were arranged in a line.
    Wow, I went off course somewhere but the point is that considering an improvement of your writing system as a violation of your culture is really a handicap. You won't destroy millennia of Chinese culture by starting to use something simple for every day communication. It is not just my opinion, many other cultures agree, including cultures that already used the Chinese alphabet, so there might be some truth to that.

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:47AM (#33391126) Homepage Journal

    I found myself "forced" into online banking because writing checks became tedious. It was the only writing I had to do on a consistent basis and when I grouped my bill paying at the end of the week I would find my hand cramping or oddly, my thinking about the actual writing skewed my handwriting. I could feel the oddness of the pen in my hand. If I focused I could write very nice script, but it felt like work. I am not even a fan of signing my name when I pay by CC

    I cannot imagine writing a reply to a message board using a pen input device. Perhaps that is one reason many don't miss the pen or writing recognition programs that some claimed missing from the iPad.

  • by tenchikaibyaku ( 1847212 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:49AM (#33391160)
    Well, I'm not a learner of Chinese (although the same applies to Japanese I guess, sort of), but - as far as I know - being able to read modern Chinese does not mean that you are able to make perfect sense of classical written Chinese. So, you need to study either way. Maybe the amount of study needed is less if you are familiar with the modern character usage, but it still takes effort to appreciate the really old written history.

    As languages evolve, I guess this is kind of universal. On that basis, I'm not sure your argument is a good one.
  • by KlaymenDK ( 713149 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:35AM (#33391716) Journal

    when I write by hand I'm starting to write letters out of order. Say I want to hand write "literacy", I end up writing "ilterayc" or something like that. [...] I doesn't stress me out, but it does makes me wonder.

    You're not alone, I'm doing the same thing myself. Albeit not on every line down the page, but certainly a few times on each page. It's very peculiar. Perhaps it's because writing is a slower process by hand than by keyboard, and we've become so accustomed to the new speed that, when handwriting, we "outthink" our hand and get a sort of "frame drop" or hiccup in the buffer? I'm sure it's something along those neurological lines...

    And this news from China and Japan makes me even the more curious about this and the effect of computers in daily hand writing. Be it kanji or latin, heavy computer usage certainly seems to have a negative effect in basic writing skills.

    I had a different thought: every now and then, there's debate whether or not "lol", "l33t", and so on should become part of the formal vocabulary since they are already part of the informal vocabulary -- taking this a step further, maybe it's time the Chinese should reconsider their use of that obviously very complicated glyph system, and maybe switch to something simpler (say, romulan)? I've got nothing personal against the chinese, but TFA was about their type of writing specifically. We've been optimising the hell out of everything else, so why not writing systems as well?

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:39AM (#33391758)

    English pronunciation also varies widely. So much so that somebody with a strong New England accent would be unlikely to be able to understand someone with a deep Southern accent without great difficulty. In the company where I work, I heard this all the time from Yankees that had to take classes from our training center in Atlanta. And there are many deep accents all over the world: Scottish, Cockney, "BBC English", and the accent belonging to each individual former English colony.

    While the advent of modern media has decreased these differences markedly, but they have always been strong enough that English has never been phonetically spelled. Yes, there are some minor regional spelling differences, but they are not so great as to markedly affect understanding.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:51AM (#33391912)

    What about the people who use cursive just because it's convenient? All this "cursive is stupid" whining makes me think that there's some sort of jealousy involved. Either that or first rate studpidity. Don't think that your cultural background is universal (i.e. that there is no country on earth in which cursive isn't the norm). I should know: I've never seen one handwritten document (homework, quizzes, etc.) that was not written in cursive. Sometimes badly, but always readable. Or to say it another way: For some people on this earth writing cursive is as natural as carrying a loaded gun is for others. It just depends on where you're coming from ...

  • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:59AM (#33392014) Journal

    Reading original manuscripts is a useful skill, sure, but it's not one that everyone needs.

    You're talking about the skill of reading. You're arguing that not everyone needs to be able to read, where reading means deciphering word-forming symbols on a page which look similar but not necessarily identical to symbols you have learnt. Have I walked into some sort of alternative reality where nerds are posting that the skill of reading is archaic? And that only a "small number of professional historians" need to do it?

    As for understanding the message, it is true that sometimes certain domain-specific skills are needed to study original documents in a particular subject, or at least to perform the most fruitful study. But anyone reasonably educated can get something out of reading an original. To take one extreme, any man can read a facsimile of the original US Constitution and get something out of it, but a legal scholar or historian could get more out of it. For a middle ground, Newton's Opticks is extremely readable to the layperson with very little technical skill required. As is some Darwin. And an annotated set of extracts of Newton's Principia is a much better introduction to Newtonian mechanics than any annoying high school "here is a list of Newton's 3 laws". I mean "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" - you can repeat it to the end of days and sound smart, but what the hell is that supposed to mean? And "F=ma" is neat and concise but conveys much less meaning than Newton's albeit far more wordy formulation.

    For over a century you had the quite different Newtonian and Leibnitzian notations - but turns out (of course) you do exactly the same calculations in either, and can translate any given proof back and forth.

    If you're only differentiating wrt/ one variable, yes. But you're missing the point with Leibniz notation that you can do cunning manipulations with the symbols directly. It's like CS freshmen proudly announcing, "Well all computers are the same cos they're Turing complete!" Uhuh.

    It turns out that the different notations reflected two different ways of looking at the calculus which in turn reflected two different ways of looking at mathematics, the battle between which has been a significant part of mathematical development since. The notations also camouflaged the nonsense inherent in both versions of the calculus that was the infinitesimal quantity, which then in no resolvable way represented both something and nothing and had to wait for Cauchy et al. to come to the rescue.

    Also, Newtonian notation remains less cumbersome where appropriate, as well as conveying the original physical landscape for it was developed. I've read and used it often. Furthermore, take the dot, shift it to the right and leak it down the page a bit to give you...

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @10:56AM (#33392718)
    Iv sumone mispels Inglish wurds u can stil undrstand em.
  • Could you explain more about the harm? Overall, Turkey seems to be doing very, very well.

    Well, I suppose that Ataturk's obsequious deferring to Western cultural, social and political imperialism/franchisism did confer some benefits on Turkey. The question is do these benefits outweigh the loss of native culture, history, language and pride? I'm sure from the perspective of an outside westerner, this "civilising" and "modernisation" of Turkey is both splendid and favourable. But Joe Turk might have a different opinion when he sees his children and grandchildren dressed up in unnatural garb and aping smirking foreigners while they exploit what's left of his country. But what do I know? I grew up after the wall went down; I know no other social system except the corporate one.

    Let me put this another way. When the Native American's sent their ambassadors to Washington, they voluntarily wore business suits. And after their defeat, when they were forced into various institutions, they were forced to wear western attire. Free or note, the result was the same; they "assimilated", and gained nothing for it.

    And I know you may well find these notions ridiculous. After all the Turks "chose" this right. No-one forced them to Speak White []; right?

  • by bruthasj ( 175228 ) <bruthasj&yahoo,com> on Friday August 27, 2010 @11:21AM (#33393064) Homepage Journal []

    I've been studying Chinese off and on for 16 years; living in the region for 10 years. I speak fluently, I read at an advanced level and I input characters at a good pace on the computer. But, I write like I'm still in primary school.

    Our brains are literally offloading the recall function to external computational devices. But, as we play video games, watch TV and read, our recognition systems are tuned and trained to a fine degree.

    Look forward to what cognitive studies come out of this. I doubt we'll see a total loss, but if we lose the assistance, it'll be interesting to see how humans cope as the skill gap between recall and recognition gets wider.

  • I gave up on writing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:09PM (#33393684)

    As a student of Japanese, I quickly realized that handwriting was a next-to-worthless skill and redirected my efforts towards improving my reading skills. Now I'm able to read about 90% of Japanese text, and I don't miss my writing skills at all.

  • by Gaffod ( 939100 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @06:14PM (#33398616)

    Could you explain more about the harm? Overall, Turkey seems to be doing very, very well.

    Parent is a quaint breed of reactionary and has no clue what he is talking about. Firstly the switch was not just script, before there was an "Ottoman" language which was very heavily influenced by Arabic (in terms of vocabulary and phrase grammar) which rendered any government writing barely comprehensible to the average peasant. For Turkish itself as it is spoken now and as it was spoken before the Arabic influence (there are plenty of Turkish-speaking peoples who were never part of the Empire), Arabic script is not appropriate at all- groups of phonemes are mapped to the same character and some groups of characters are mapped to only one Turkish phoneme. This is partly because Arabic and Turkish have significantly different phonetic structure.

    The switch got rid of the writing system and a lot of the vocabulary, such that it is feasible for the average high-school educated Turk to pick up the constitution and make some sense of what it says. (Complexity of legalese aside)

    The historical record did not go anywhere. Any Turkish undergrad history program worth its salt will have an Ottoman class in the 2nd and 3rd years, which allows students to become perfectly proficient in it. The Turkish historical community is reliable enough to produce translations of important documents without any major political bias. Ottoman courses for interested laypersons are ubiquitous, cheap and often free.

    The only two drawbacks were basically overcoming the friction from a clueless populace which wanted a sultanate to continue, and the aforementioned extra courses that undergrads have to take now. I tried learning quite a few writing systems out of personal curiosity, and I'd say the Turkish writing system is almost perfect (by the way, there is an objective definition of that), with a few minor exceptions (foreign loanwords and some nuances in stress can be tricky).

  • by ld a,b ( 1207022 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @08:04PM (#33399526) Journal

    I don't really know how sustainable Chinese characters are in Mainland China, especially after Comrade Mao simplified their etymologies out, believing the Western bullshit that they were too hard. In any case, they have been in use for a few thousand years if that means anything.

    In Japanese at least, literacy is steadily increasing. Twenty years ago, with 8-bit computers, kanji were appearing to be on their way out. However, as soon as IME and modern OSes appeared people started using more kanji even if they never could have written them by hand. And that means more kanji regular people can read. Recently, the number of kanji considered to be needed for basic literacy was increased to account for that.

    Handwriting is suffering(The only real usage cases in modern Japanese society are resumes[=], paperwork[vv], and kanji quizes/exams[^]), but kanji themselves are here to stay.

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