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Character Amnesia: Forgetting Culture In China And Japan

Concerns are rising that traditional writing is going extinct due to overuse of technology by the younger generation.

Michael Brooks
Michael Brooks on August 27, 2010.

Is text messaging culture in China and Japan hurting young people’s ability write and remember characters?  All school children in both Japan and China spend many grueling hours committing to memory the entire character system. But with heavy use of computers and mobile technologies, a phenomenon known as “character amnesia” is spreading. Computers and other gadgets are based on alphabet systems. Young people report an increasing difficulty in remembering characters.

AFP reports:

Yet aged just 21 and now a university student in Hong Kong, Li already finds that when she picks up a pen to write, the characters for words as simple as “embarrassed” have slipped from her mind.

“I can remember the shape, but I can?t remember the strokes that you need to write it,” she says. “It’s a bit of a problem.”

Surveys indicate the phenomenon, dubbed “character amnesia”, is widespread across China, causing young Chinese to fear for the future of their ancient writing system.

Young Japanese people also report the problem, which is caused by the constant use of computers and mobile phones with alphabet-based input systems.

There is even a Chinese word for it: “tibiwangzi”, or “take pen, forget character”.

…Character amnesia happens because most Chinese people use electronic input systems based on pinyin, which translates Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet.

The user enters each word using pinyin, and the device offers a menu of characters that match. So users must recognise the character, but they don’t need to be able to write it.

AFP: Wired Youth Forget How to Write In China and Japan

[via Slashdot]

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