Lazy Friday Links

I’ve written a few articles elsewhere lately (mostly for ChinesePod), so rather than write real new content this Friday, I will take the lazy way out and link to some things I’ve already written.

When to Learn Hanzi?
(on CPod)
Could it possibly be that studying Chinese characters full-on from the very beginning is not the best way to go?

2. Talking to Oneself Productively (on CPod Praxis)
It’s not exactly a revolutionary new method, but talking to myself has helped me to learn Chinese.

3. On Google’s Evilness (on iDrone)
Light-hearted speculation on Google’s current and hypothetical migration toward evil (with regards to China).


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John, for the first article I wonder how much your experiance with Japanese has affected your view? I don’t know what your classes were like, but in my first year of college courses we only learned about a hundred chinese characters (and most of that was in the last quarter). Having attempted earlier to quickly learn the characters using the Heisig method, I could appretiate how beneficial this was. Understanding how the kanji are used and the variety of their meaning requires a great deal of knowledge about the language, something you can’t expect a first year student to possess.

  2. Hmmm . . . a decentralized blog. Wonder if the concept will catch on?

  3. I began learning Chinese at a foreign language institute in Korea. My only prior exposure to Chinese characters was 100 characters learned through self-study with practice books for elementary students. I figured if a seven-year-old could learn to read and write characters, I could, too. Working through the books taught me the different kinds of strokes and the rules of stroke order. It was still a shock when I opened up the book to the first lesson and most of the characters were new, different from the ones I had learned. Since Koreans learn about 2,000 traditional characters in secondary school, Chinese character literacy was assumed, and no time was spent in class teaching how to write. The book did provide at the end of each lesson the stroke order for writing simplified characters presented in the unit. I worked my buns to keep up with my Korean classmates, but it was worth it, as I didn’t have to go back later and learn how to write basic vocabulary words. I was glad to have the opportunity to learn Chinese in Korea, rather than in North America.

  4. I took a semester of JC Mandarin, they went through reading & writing maybe 250 characters – the first half of the old school Practical Chinese Reader I. Everybody could read fine by the end…a lot of people were spotty about the writing though. I must admit I was one of them.

  5. Well John, it’s not like everybody can find the time to run half a dozen blogs, design websites, go to grad school and work full time. I sure as heck wouldn’t call you lazy.

    My thoughts on Google’s evilness run along pretty much the same line as yours.

    As for learning characters, I think they’re really, really important. I don’t know any foreigners (including ABCs) who speak really good Chinese and can’t read. For that matter, I don’t know anyone illiterate people that speak great English, either.

  6. Da Xiangchang Says: June 10, 2006 at 6:39 am

    Well, I don’t think Google’s evil. They just provide a service to online Chinese, and if they have to do with Chinese-imposed limitations, so be it. And I’ve always been ambivalent about censorship in China. On the one hand, the commies are doing it to stay in power, but you know what, I think China is BETTER cuz the commies are in power–right now anyway. If the government provides total press freedom–including fully unlocking the internet–the end result might not be a good thing; in fact, it might be a horrible thing. I mean, democracy isn’t a cure-all. Just look at what’s happening in Iraq; they got their freedom, all right–the freedom to blow each other up! So I’m all for some censorship in China. Keep the masses happy with building the economy and making money, then in 30 years’ time, maybe talk about more freedoms. It’s a winning combination. I mean, just compare the fates of countries that followed such a path–Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan–with with “instant” democracies like Russia and Iraq. Tell me: which countries would you rather live in?! Like the Iraqis, some people just aren’t ready for freedom. And laowais who always whine about censorship have the option to get the hell out of China if the country implodes from too much of the freedom they’re always advocating; in other words, laowais can preach cuz their own lives aren’t affected if their noble freedom-loving opinions prove disastrously wrong. The Chinese don’t have this option. So I’m not very sympathetic when foreigners talk about censorship in China being “evil.”

  7. I agree with you on the Iraq example. There’s got to be some way to implement democracy in a country without blowing it to bits first; it’s inevitable that within the next 30 years, the finest political minds at the Party’s major think tanks will be able to come up with a solution.

  8. The Communist Party has been in control for 50+ years and the Chinese economy is shit. Go outside Shanghai anda few select cities and it’s like kicking it with the fucking Amish, cows dragging plows and so forth. I have hopes for China’s economic future, but I think so far the Communist Party couldn’t have done all that much worse of a job.

    Taking recent democracies like Russia or especially Iraq (which only very recently has become a marginal democracy, immediately after a very large invasion, painful economic sanctions, and a repressive apartheid government) and comparing that to a country like China is just absurd and won’t give you any meaningful result. Don’t know with Taiwan, but South Korea’s economy boomed distinctly AFTER it democratized (fun fact: South Korea & North Korea’s economies were vaguely equal until the early 80s).

    More than that, I believe in a fundamental right of people to do & say what they want, as long as it doesn’t directly hurt others. Long-term economic planning is secondary to that right.

  9. The South Korean economy was hot long before its first democratically contested presidential election in 1989. Under the leadership of Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s economy grew by an average of 8% a year, equal to China’s current rate of growth. Until the mid-60s, the South Korean government budget was subsidized by the US, but by the early 70s, South Korea passed North Korea and hasn’t looked back since. South Korea didn’t grow because it was democratic. Rather, it became democratic because of the growth of an educated middle class.

  10. Talking to yourself definitely helps improve language skills, even from the very start when I’d see objects and just list the names. I used t recite things while I swam laps too, everything from numbers to colours to months. It was very soothing, as I recall!

  11. Marilynn Says: June 11, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    Having just completed a teacher workshop on “best practies” which included a bit on student learning styles, I’m thinking that while the method of speaking to yourself, especially aloud, will help everyone, because you’re thinking more often using the new language’s syntax as well as vobabulary, if your learning style is more auditory (as opposed to visual or tactual/kinesthetic), it will get you even farther faster. There are probably inventories online that you can take to determine your predominant learning style, if you don’t already know it.

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