Friday, 21 December 2007

How can you love without a heart?

For anyone studying Mandarin they probably know there is the traditional way of writing characters (complicated), and the simplified way. Having learnt both I can see the merits of both. I grew up learning the traditional way (which is what they use in Taiwan and Hong Kong) but one year we went to a different Chinese (Saturday) school, and in university they taught us simplified and pinyin.

Since all Chinese characters are derived from pictograms, the traditional characters make more 'sense', but the simplified characters are easier to write and remember (since they have fewer strokes). It is obviously easier to go from traditional to simplified, but not the other way around.

However, the problem with simplified is that a lot of the time the meaning is totally lost.

Eg in 'love' (ai) 愛 is the traditional method, and 爱 is the simplified. If you look closely they are exactly the same except there is a component missing in the middle. That is another character in itself 'heart' (xin) 心. So whoever did this 'simplifying' did a pretty bad job IMHO.

Here's another one which makes no sense whatsoever. 'behind, backwards, after' (hou)後 . The simplified way is 后. Now, first of all they look nothing alike. Second of all, 后 actually means queen. The only reason it was chosen was because it had the exact same sound (hou4). Weird, huh?!

Even though in China they have been using the simplified writing system for a few decades now, you can still sometimes see buildings and documentation with traditional characters which is why it pays to know both.

And people wonder why Mandarin is so hard to learn?!

Wikipedia article on "Debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters"

1 comment:

Jenfy said...

The love character is not the same with just the heart missing. They've replaced the whole bottom part with "friendship" (you). Someone told me it is "because there is no romantic love in communist China."