Very interesting article on a somewhat secretive deal between the BC government and the Chinese government through the Confucius Institute. A smart move by the Chinese government to try and promote China and its culture in other countries. However, we as Canadians, have to be careful of a slow creep of potential propaganda. Most of our language courses are taught by Canadians and developed by Canadians. They teach the language and culture of other countries, but keeps a Canadian perspective. Today, the Vancouver Sun had a different article regarding the BCTF’s reaction to this piece of news.
One big thing that concerns me; however, is the escalating exclusion of Traditional Chinese. Traditional Chinese, as the name suggests, are the Chinese characters in full form. These characters have existed for thousands of years and gives a connection to the past. The Traditional Chinese characters often have clues to meaning, sound, and origin within the writing. Traditional Chinese is now only officially used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Simplified Chinese is the official written form of Chinese in the People’s Republic of China. It is also officially recognized as the official written form of Chinese in other jurisdictions, such as Singapore. It is easier to learn and write than Traditional Chinese, but it removes parts of the word that may be important to meaning, sound, or origin of the word. Also, the Simplified form of Chinese has many homonyms (many different meanings/words are represented with the same writing). For example, the word for “back” or “behind” is hou. The exact same writing can also represent one of the words for “queen.” In Traditional Chinese, the words are completely different. Simplified Chinese sometimes takes one part of a character and magnifies it to be the whole word.
I personally am a fan of the Traditional Chinese. It’s not as hard to learn as some of its critics claim it is. Taiwan and Hong Kong are full of perfectly literate Traditional Chinese readers and writers. In fact, I find it easier to understand Traditional Chinese because of the richness in clues for meaning and sound found in traditional characters. With Simplified Chinese, it can boil down to simple memorization for some words. Whereas in Traditional Chinese, I find patterns that assist me in learning the language and understanding a word.