Bless you

Or, why Mandarin won’t be the language of the future:

The learner needs to know at least 3,000-4,000 characters to make sense of written Chinese, and thousands more to have a real feel for it. Fewer and fewer native speakers learn to produce characters in traditional calligraphy. Instead, they write their language the same way we do—with a computer. And not only that, but they use the Roman alphabet to produce Chinese characters. If the user types in wo shi zhongguo ren, “I am Chinese”, the software detects the meaning and picks the right characters. With less need to recall the characters cold, the Chinese are forgetting them. David Moser asked three native Chinese graduate students at Peking University how to write ‘sneeze’:

“To my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the “Harvard of China”. Can you imagine three phd students at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word ‘sneeze’? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China.”

More here.

How many words do you know?

How many languages are there in the world?


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