Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Random quote of the day

"Japanese orthography shares with English the distinction of being the worst of its class, except that instead of being the worst of a good lot, it is the worst of a bad lot." Wm. Hannas, Asia's Orthographic Dilemma (p. 27)

Comments like this one make me feel justified in having failed in Japanese elementary school. There are just so many characters to memorize and to copy over and over and over. As bad as I am now about coping with boredom, I was far worse as a kid. Not surprising, then, that I couldn't finish homework that was to copy x number of characters 20 or 100 times each. Ah, what fond memories of first grade...

Anyway, Hannas's critique of the Chinese writing system makes for a fascinating and entertaining read, partly because he is so vehement in his vituperation. He speaks of the Chinese characters having distorted and imprisoned the languages that use them. Because of the kanji, he claims, "the Japanese language itself was bent out of recognition" (39). If I recall correctly, he also says that all the memorization of characters impedes the scientific and academic progress of Chinese scholars. Hyperbole, just maybe? But so many Americans think all Chinese characters are just so cool and efficient and logical that it makes me extra-happy to read a book that vigorously rejects that idea.


Marshall said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog this week; not sure how you found it but glad it was encouraging.

Ren said...

haha not all! this one thinks that they are a pain to write and memorize. ;)