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Speed of writing is cited as an advantage of simplified Chinese over traditional, which is especially important for schoolchildren, but are there any studies or measurements to this effect? How much faster is it really to write simplified, given similar skill levels?

I'm referring to writing all the strokes, by hand. Of course the differences disappear if people are writing cursive, or electronically using IMEs.

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This paper concludes: 1) in the test of sample text, the 1128 traditional characters' strokes are on average 6.69 stroke-per-character more than the simplified ones. 2) in the high-frequency text test, 3479 traditional characters' strokes are only on average 6.69 stroke-per-character more. Now I cannot read the whole paper but I highly doubt if its statistical methodology is sound -- you know, as the situation 99 persons have no money but 1 is a billionaire will result in they're "millionaires" on average. It's unfair. –  Stan Oct 4 '13 at 12:31
    
Sorry for my typo above. "2) in the high-frequency text test, 3479 traditional characters' strokes are only on average 6.69 stroke-per-character more" should be 2.19 stroke-per-character. –  Stan Oct 4 '13 at 18:05
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@Stan, you omitted to mention that the additional 2.19 strokes is equivalent to 30% more strokes in that test, which is statistically significant no matter how you look at it. –  杨以轩 Oct 5 '13 at 4:09
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It's difficult to compose a rigorous answer to this question in only 7 days. It requires too much research work -- mainly on the gathering, filtering of the corpus. So it seems no one would won the bounty. –  Stan Feb 26 '14 at 5:29
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I am not sure the difference does disappear when using IMEs. The IME will sometimes generate a longer list of alternatives in traditional than in simplified, and it may take longer to scan the alternatives. Of course it will depend on who is doing it. As a foreign beginner, more trained in simplified than traditional characters it takes me a lot long for IME in traditional. For one thing I go back and catch more mistakes. –  Colin McLarty Feb 27 at 13:39

2 Answers 2

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  1. How much faster is it really to write simplified, given similar skill levels?

    Basically, writing simplified characters (SC) can be faster than traditional characters (TC).

    SC comes into stage primarily because of its handy characteristics. Some people really want to boost up the writing speed, among other personal reasons, and there's no such awesome typing machine like notebook today, so what can they do is fairly predictable, such as scribbling around, or just dropping some elements.

  2. Speed of writing is cited as an advantage of simplified Chinese over traditional, which is especially important for schoolchildren, but are there any studies or measurements to this effect?

    Provide you with my own experiment result here. I've timed and written the above Wiki page with its first two paragraphs in the introduction part, both SC version and TC version. There're 306 characters. It took me:

    • 14 minutes 43 seconds (883 seconds) to write up the SC version or 2.9 seconds per character on average, and
    • 21 minutes 36 seconds (1296 seconds) to write up the TC version or 4.2 seconds per character on average.

    Didn't write pretty well, just everyday performance.

    The scan of my writing

    SC-vs-TC-writing-speed-test

    SC version script

    汉字简化争论是一个讨论汉字之正式字体的话题。由于中国大陆、香港、台湾的使用习惯、文化认同及意识形态不同,而持续被提出来争论。汉字文化圈其他国家如日本、越南则较少关注这一争论。1这里所谓的“汉字简化”,主要针对的是中华人民共和国所推行的简化字,台湾和香港地区并不采用,并有普遍的激烈批评。本条目中的“繁体字”是中国大陆对传统汉字字体的称呼,在香港、澳门等地区也较常使用此名称,中华民国(台湾)官方称之为“正体字”[2][3][4]。现行中国大陆的简体字属于毛泽东时代下,为响应苏联国际化语言而推动汉字拉丁化(废除汉字)的政治性产物。简体字仅是废除汉字前的过渡性措施。[5][6]1985年12月,国务院决定将中国文字改革委员会改名为国家语言文字工作委员会,强调国家语委要“促进语言文字的规范化、标准化”,这表明拼音化道路已被放弃。[7]

    TC version script

    漢字簡化爭論是一個討論漢字之正式字體的話題。由於中國大陸、香港、台灣的使用習慣、文化認同及意識形態不同,而持續被提出來爭論。漢字文化圈其他國家如日本、越南則較少關注這一爭論。1這裡所謂的「漢字簡化」,主要針對的是中華人民共和國所推行的簡化字,台灣和香港地區並不採用,並有普遍的激烈批評。本條目中的「繁體字」是中國大陸對傳統漢字字體的稱呼,在香港、澳門等地區也較常使用此名稱,中華民國(台灣)官方稱之為「正體字」[2][3][4]。現行中國大陸的簡體字屬於毛澤東時代下,為響應蘇聯國際化語言而推動漢字拉丁化(廢除漢字)的政治性產物。簡體字僅是廢除漢字前的過渡性措施。[5][6]1985年12月,國務院決定將中國文字改革委員會改名為國家語言文字工作委員會,強調國家語委要「促進語言文字的規範化、標準化」,這表明拼音化道路已被放棄。[7]

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+1 for the experimentalism :D BTW, in your daily life, do you write SC or TC? If you're familiar with writing SC, this experiment can be criticized for your possible lacking experience of writing TC. –  Stan Oct 4 '13 at 14:33
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Thanks for encouraging :D My hand cramped up... I've been switching to TC for about a few years. SC is really fast. –  congliu Oct 4 '13 at 14:38
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Not only speed but less pencil sharpening/ink :-) And eye strain for us folks with bad eyesight. –  Steve Oct 4 '13 at 15:08
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I tried this paragraph too. And my result was: 15:15 for SC and 17:13 for TC. Both are written in running script by a gel pen (when writing TC I was intentional to speed up a little so it looked ugly). Anyway, I believe writing SC is easier. –  Stan Oct 4 '13 at 16:47
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Definitely TC writes slower... so in Taiwan the students in secondary or high school have classes of simplified Chinese so they can write faster when taking notes and so on... Of course, their simplification does not match that in mainland China exactly, for instance, 專 is simplified to 专 as in mainland China while 團 is simplified to 囗 + 专 instead of 囗 + 才 as in mainland China. This is more logical because 專 in 團 is the pronunciation indicator, so the form like 团 does not really make sense. –  user58955 Oct 4 '13 at 20:51

First of all, thanks to Congliu's experiment. And I think this is a very interesting question.

I found this research called The Dynamic Statistics and Comparison of the Stroke Counts of Simplified and Traditional Chinese Characters (ftp://ftp.cs.sjtu.edu.cn:990/gshulun/%B7%A2%B1%ED%C2%DB%CE%C4my_published_papers/%BC%F2%BB%AF%D7%D6%D3%EB%B7%B1%CC%E5%D7%D6%B1%CA%BB%AD%CA%FD%B5%C4%B6%AF%CC%AC%CD%B3%BC%C6%D3%EB%B1%C8%BD%CF.pdf) on Shanghai Jiao Tong University's website. I'm not sure about how serious the research was, but I think it can bring some insights to the topic.

Their findings are:

  • Among 3479 high-frequency TC characters, TC characters have 2.19 (30%) more strokes than SC characters.

  • For another 1128 random TC characters, the difference is 6.69 strokes.

So if we can set an average stroke speed, SC is definitely faster.

THOUGHTS

This is not a surprise. Intuitively, Simplified Chinese should be faster since speed its one of its purpose and it was achieved by trim down the strokes in the characters. And it is very understandable that TC users may find SC repelling. I'm a SC user (I'd like to use TC, but I think I'd better do it by formal training rather than just use the TC function in the IME which may lead to subtle misuse). But if I were a TC user, I probably would frown when I see SC as well since some of the characters I tried hard to learn had been trimmed down without inconsistently and they just look awkward. Also it would be easier to criticise something new (relatively). But process of simplification lost some of the characters origin and tradition is a fact.

But there are two sides of the story. Indeed the SC was part of the Soviet political scheme. However, I think it did benefit the population in less literal area to become semi-literal quickly. I mean, for the speed of China's economy, those people really don't have the time the differentiate the four ways to write character 茴 (look it up, it's called 茴香豆的茴字的四种写法, it's famous criticism on Chinese characters by Lu Xun). Now think about another fact: for years, college students were required to pass CET English test to graduate in Mainland China, which has been lifted just recent year. Facing a huge illiterate population who resides in poor areas, SC did help to smooth the process for making them to read and write at least and make time to learn English as well.

But this question got me to think about the current situation for SC. Today, most of us Chinese, like the rest of the world, use computers, cellphones more than ever. Personally, I only actually write when I want to practice my handwriting. Pinyin really helped in this aspect, so the writing speed in production environment seems to be less an issue. If we start switching back to TC characters now, speed wouldn't be a big problem for economy (And most people in economically developed part can read most TC). And for schoolers, they have and should spend the time to learn each characters closely. But on the other hand, TC might be too complex for displays, especially in small sizes. And SC has become part of the history and reality.

Those are my personal thoughts about the SC v.s TC issue. I know that my thought is inconclusive regarding which one is better issue. But I think it will just become part of asian history. It doesn't make any more sense than arguing which one is more correct between Japanese Kanji and Chinese Characters except in terms of politics.

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