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I've heard that character amnesia is becoming more and more common.

  1. What if a Chinese has to write something and he doesn't have a cellphone or computer with him, what does he do if he forgot the character he needed? Does he use another character with the same pronunciation?

  2. Under the same situation do the Taiwanese use bopomofo?

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I asked my Chinese daughter-in-law this question. She said she would call her mom in China! – user836 Jul 7 '12 at 22:40
From watching Chinese people write, the usual reaction is to sit there thinking "F***! How did I forget how to write that?!?" – jsj Feb 23 '13 at 10:50

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As a native Chinese speaker, I sometimes replace the forgotten phrase with another one which has same meaning. Sometimes I even rewrite the whole sentence to avoid writing some hard characters.

By the way, since there are a lot of Chinese characters has the same pronunciation (ex: 意義/異議). The input programs are also very error-prone to select correct characters. Some people will just use wrong characters with the similar pronunciation because they are too lazy to correct them. This is why you can see some common mistakes like 因該 instead of 應該.

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I suppose that would be the Chinese equivalent of a spelling error. – Kenjo Jul 7 '12 at 4:59
Or it could just be a spelling error (-; I'm always surprised when people feel the word "spelling" doesn't apply to Chinese or Japanese. – hippietrail Oct 31 '12 at 13:10

This is a difficult question to answer without generalizing.

Anyway, it is hard to imagine a Chinese without a cellphone/smartphone, so in practice they would mostly use their phone with a pinyin input method (I'm talking about mainland Chinese, in Taiwan they would use something similar). If for some reason they wouldn't be able to use their cellphone, they'd ask somebody else and if he/she also doesn't know it and there isn't a good synonym, they would use pinyin. In most cases it will be clear from the context what is meant.

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