RE: On using Pinyin

I cam across two articles on Gemini, discussing what would happen if Chinese switched to using pinyin instead of characters. I want to share my thoughgts as a native speaker.

First, I don't user pinyin to type Chinese. I'm from Taiwan and we use another system called Bopomofo(注音).

i have converted many wikipedia articles to pinyin and asked native speakers to read them. The consensus is that doing so is slow, but the content is understandable.

I agree with this. Reading Pinyin or Bopomofo is much slower than reading characters. From my experience, unlike reading in English, reading chinese doesn't require the understanding of every single character. Due to the nature of Chinese characters, you can get enough context from the 1st character of a word in a sentence. Here's an classic example:


The first 2 lines are scrambled, but native speakers won't even notice it until it is revealed or trying to read it out loud. With pinyin, the only context you get is the sound, which has a much lower information density and contains much less context. Thus the "skimming" ability of Chinese is lost.

I'm not alone in thinking that pinyin is the better system to use to teach beginner chinese learners. ...

With that said, for teaching, yes, I agree people should learn pinyin first. In fact, I remember in kindergarten and early elementary school, we were taught to wrtie the actual Bopomofo notation first. Then gradually we were taught to write the characters. And be required to use the characters in our writing. So the following is very common on our notebooks.

功ㄎㄜˋ: ㄕㄨˋ ㄒㄩㄝˊ ㄉㄧˋ12頁
(功課: 數學第12頁)
(Homework: Math page 12)

Learning the Chinise character was a horrible process. IIRC the entire 6 years of elementry school's Chinise class is basically learning new characters and writing them over and over again. Like 8 times. And the "punishment", for a lack of a better word, for forgetting how to write one is to write more of them. Sigh!

Now another note: i was shown that 花 is flower, 生 is birth, and 花生 is peanut. But in pinyin, hua is flower, sheng is birth, and huasheng is peanut.

Oh, easy. Becasue the classical full form is 落花生. It's named after how when peanut flowers mature. They start to bend and the flower will touch the ground. Then grows under the ground. So 落花生. 落花 meaning the flower falls. 生 means to grow. People just shorten it to 花生. If you can udner classical Chinese, text in the Ming dynasty wrote: 甘美可食,莖葉如扁豆而細,謂之香芋。又有引蔓開花,花落即生,名之曰落花生。 (It's sweet and edible. The stem and leaves are like beans but thinner. It's called fragrant taro. It's also called falling flower, because it flowers and falls, then grows.)

Personal rant. Chinese is very unstrict about a lot of orders. For example, the following are all valid sentences and mean the same thing.

約翰下午在圖書館認真的讀書。(Taiwan Ministry of Education removed the difference between 的 and 地)

I don't know which one if "officially" correct. But exactly 0 people will have any problem any of them. Some forms are used more in story telling and some more casual. But still valid.

Personally I think Chinese is a horrible language. Period. This is also why I love how strightforward Esperanto it. Simple kaj facila.

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Martin Chang
Systems software, HPC, GPGPU and AI. I mostly write stupid C++ code. Sometimes does AI research. Chronic VRChat addict

I run TLGS, a major search engine on Gemini. Used by Buran by default.

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