13 July 2008

Practicing Chinese


That was "Hello World!" in Chinese (literally: "World, hello!")

So I am trying to practice my Mandarin Chinese more often. I installed Chinese languages on my Windows XP machine. The two main options for Chinese are PRC (People's Republic of China) and Taiwan. I prefer using Taiwan because you can input the words by writing them on the "IME pad." The way this works is that you write the character stroke by stroke in a white box. This means that you need to know how to write the character and also the stroke order. So I get a chance to practice writing characters. I'm sure it's much faster to enter pinyin because you don't have to look up how to write the character and because there is AI that completes common phrases for you. But I think it's better to write the character for educational purposes. Also, I don't know pinyin (pronunciation system in Roman characters commonly used in People's Republic of China), only zhuyin (pronunciation system commonly used in Taiwan).

To help me enter characters electronically, I picked up a Wacom Bamboo tablet. It's not too expensive for a tablet input device and works pretty well for my simple purposes.

I found a nice site called Chinese-Course.com which provides vocabulary words and sentences. You can have it email you a sentence everyday, which is what I am doing. It also breaks down the sentence by definition and pronunciation for you (both pinyin and zhuyin). If you have a member subscription, you can listen to the sentence/words being read out to you.

I'm practicing my Chinese for two reasons. One, I am of Chinese descent and as I grow older, I find that I care more and more about my Chinese heritage. It's surprising to me. I feel critical of Chinese-Americans who seem to just assimilate and become "white." Of course, I don't tell them that, but I can't help feeling that way. Two, it's hard to keep in touch with my dad over the phone. I thought that if I started practicing Chinese, we can work together on it. Lately, I email my dad an elementary school level sentence and ask him if it's correct. Fun for both of us!

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