Dr. Kiran Bibi
Chinese character learning for pinyin writing students has always been an essential and challenging task. Chinese is the world’s most ancient, exquisite, sententious, and exuberant language, but it is also regarded as the most difficult language to learn.
It is not only for non-Chinese, but it has four different levels of difficulty of writing, recognizing, reading, and memorizing for Chinese people.
For centuries Chinese trying hard to learn their script but still challenging to find one who can claim a complete understanding; a small number of Chinese possess the ability to recognize, write, read and pronounce precisely while others can’t; which makes it even more difficult for foreigners to learn this language.
This article highlights the snags for Pakistani students in the learning phase of Chinese characters’ attributes and teaching as a foreign language and then talks about their solutions.
The history of teaching Chinese in Pakistan is only more than thirty years which is not very long. The need for learning Chinese in Pakistan expanded after the 1980’s Chinese reforms.
Nevertheless, students find it difficult and throbbed by Chinese characters giving up halfway through after learning for six months or a year.
There could be many subjective and objective reasons for this, peradventure, the materials used in the teaching, the student’s unfamiliarity with Chinese characters, their learning level, or the teaching technique being at fault.
There are some practical and psychological problems too for Pakistani students. Most of the social and educational interactions are in English or Urdu, and both are very dissimilar in nature and font.
Chinese characters are a unity of form, sound, and meaning called morphemes. However, phoneme and syllable characters have only shapes and sounds, but no purpose is very different from Chinese characters.
It is worth noting that even if it is “shape”, there is a big difference between the “shape” of Chinese characters and the “shape” of pinyin characters.
For example, the “来” (come) character is written in different strokes, having a name but no meaning, and pronunciation will be different.
There are many basic Chinese stroke types that are intricate for memorizing them and their pronunciation. Moreover, five different tones make them more complex.
On the other hand, English has twenty-six phonemes, and each alphabet sound is unique and distinctive, making it easier to memorize and pronounce.
Urdu has 37 phonemes and uses the majority of Arabic alphabets and the same syllabic. Urdu is all about shapes and sounds without meaning.
In phonemes, a certain number of conditions make sounds and meaning, but Chinese characters don’t have fixed numbers of characters; they use unity of form, sound, and meaning instead.
These characteristics make me think of Chinese as a difficult language, but in reality, Chinese is not difficult; rather, it is different. Let’s take a look at some English & Urdu alphabets and Chinese characters.
In English, A B C is alphabets and can be used in separate and joint writing, like (BANANA/banana – disconnected/joint). In Urdu ا،ب،پ are alphabets and can be used most of the time in joint writing.
However, the individual letter makes no meaning in English and Urdu, such as the alphabet “A”, but combining Urdu and English letters becomes meaningful. For example, banana ج و ت ا.
However, the strokes in Chinese characters written separately do not represent any sound or meaning. For example, Unfamiliar people think Chinese characters are useless, but this is not the case.
Only the strokes are ineffective, and connected strokes together make a morpheme (Chinses character), which cannot be useless. Chinese characters have thousands of different morphemes forms.
Thousands of fonts associated with complex structures become difficult in nature to recognize and remember for students. Hence the difference between Chinese character writing and Urdu writing alphabets is the root of the difficulty in learning Chinese.
For foreigners, learning Chinese through pinyin at the beginning is a handy idea. Using pinyin for characters is an easy and quick way to master Chinese.
The teacher can assign a few words, and then many sentences could be made from them. For example, Mama, Shi, Baba, ta, da, ma, bu, fa, pa. Students can use these in the following sentence-making.
Ta pa ma. (他怕马, He is afraid of horses) Ta shi baba. (他是爸爸, He is a father) in this way, they can get hundreds of sentences in a few days.
However, writing is much more problematic than learning and pronouncing for students, as it is different than writing Urdu or Arabic words.
Chinese writing is from left to right, while Urdu is from right to leave and continuous in nature. For Urdu, only the 37 alphabets needed to be memorized, and every new word will be from these characters.
But to write Chinese, attention is required to the strokes, the shape, the number, position, the correct combination of radicals, collocation, the writing order, and the square shape of the Chinese character, in addition to single characters, combined character and the structure of Chinese characters.
All these guidelines and rules are confusing. Thus, Pakistani students often find themselves mistaken in Chinese writing as Urdu writing does not necessitate complicated requirements.
It’s not simple to write Chinese. To write Chinese characters, one must first examine them. Each component of a Chinese character represents what has been taught and what is new.
Don’t remember Chinese characters by looking at them. When one can’t write, then look at the Chinese character to see where he or she is stuck at. Let them start writing. It does not take much time to commit Chinese characters to memory.
A Chinese character is like an architectural bureau. To write a Good Man, the writer must pay attention to the proportions of the frame structure and the Chinese character elements.
Writing with more strokes should be larger while writing with fewer strokes should be smaller. A Chinese character’s grid can be separated into numerous segments based on the quantity and size of other elements.
Having a narrow left and wide right structure in Chinese characters makes it easier for the Chinese to grasp these laws. The student should pay attention to the structure of the corresponding character when writing Chinese.
In contrast, they do not pay in most observations, making them feel the Chinese language is difficult to learn, especially the writing part.
If one wants to know Chinese literature well, one needs to pay attention to the structure of Chinese characters and grasp the vowels and sounds. The only way to capture Chinese is by doing more and more practice, speaking more, and reading.
*The writer is associated with Beijing Language and Culture University. She can be contacted at Kiranbibi99@gmail.com
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