This week, we will discuss how writing is an extension of thinking and how teaching your child to write Chinese helps them develop various approaches to reasoning.
Incidentally, this post is not written to shame or cajole already stressed out and anxious parents if they choose not to have their children pursue writing Chinese characters and/or essays in Chinese. There are many ways to help your child develop logic and reasoning, and writing Chinese by no means holds the monopoly on these processes. We recognize that every family has different needs and desires, of which writing Chinese may or may not be one.
The Two Different Types of Writing and Why Parents Choose Not to Teach Them
Before we delve deeper, let’s differentiate the two types of writing we will be examining. The first is the actual physical writing of Chinese characters (and the bane of many a child’s Chinese learning process). The second is writing in order to formulate thoughts and ideas in a coherent, logical argument.
Just as many parents choose not to teach their children “non-fiction” vocabulary, many also do not teach their children how to write Chinese characters. In particular, for parents in an anglophone country, teaching our kids to speak Chinese is hard enough. Why add this extra pressure of writing characters to our children? Plus, many of us who are second or third generation remember the futility of writing characters 10-20 times for Chinese homework. It didn’t matter how many times we had to write the characters, they just did not sink in.
In fact, even native Chinese people have a hard time hand-writing Chinese characters due to the prevalence of typing and using smartphones to send emails and texts. What hope can we who are not in a Chinese society have for our children?
As for writing essays, one would think that would be contingent upon handwriting Chinese characters - but in today’s technological age, that is not necessarily true. If your child can type via pinyin or zhuyin keyboards, then really, they just need to be literate enough to recognize the character they want to use among the suggested characters.
The main barrier then is forming cogent, grammatically correct thoughts in a persuasive and compelling manner. As with the first form of writing, many parents are relieved if their children can have a basic understanding and speaking of Chinese so formulating complex, layered writing pieces in Chinese is far from their list of priorities. As a result, both forms of writing are often shunted to the wayside due to restraints of time, resources, and utility.
How Learning to Write Chinese Promotes Different Types of Thinking
For the majority of Chinese learners, we associate writing Chinese with endless repetition, frustration, and drilling. We rarely think of writing persuasive arguments or essays (if at all). Here, we proffer an alternative approach that might open our minds to both different means of teaching our children how to write as well as taking advantage of the elasticity of their brains.