The Unbearable Heaviness of Learning Chinese

A typist’s nightmare

Since every word requires its own symbol, Chinese script is immensely complicated. It possesses 50,000 characters, of which about 4,000 are in common use. Chinese typewriters are enormous and most trained typists cannot manage more than about ten words a minute. But even the most complex Chinese typewriter can manage only a fraction of the characters available. If a standard Western typewriter keyboard were expanded to take in every Chinese ideograph it would have to be fifteen feet long and five feet wide.

Life without alphabets

What does it mean for us?

When the British Empire conquered the world, we had no other choice but to learn their language. With America’s rise as a superpower, its growing cultural influence and dominance in technology, people moved towards the American brand of English (although some of us still hold on to the colonial roots). Now, if the 21st century is going to be that of Chinese supremacy, then (at least) some of us will have to learn their language as well. And trust me, learning Chinese isn’t going to be hunky-dory. How does one even say hunky-dory in Chinese? Damn!

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Read. Write. And everything in between.

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