Opinion / From the Press

Chinese characters face crisis

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-18 07:39

A company rejected the application of a college graduate for a job because her 400-word handwritten resume contained 24 wrong Chinese characters. Many students display poor Chinese language proficiency while writing. The problem that people, especially youths, are having with writing Chinese characters is becoming a threat to Chinese language and culture, says an article on gmw.cn. Excerpts:

Thirty percent of the university graduates who took a recent Chinese language proficiency test in Beijing failed, and 68 percent scored less than 70 percent marks. This is cause for concern, especially because youths' poor command of the mother tongue is in stark contrast to their enthusiasm for learning English.

Unlike their predecessors, today's school and college students are not interested in in-depth reading. The more works a person reads in a language, the better he/she can understand and apply that language. But young people are more used to reading simple texts on computers and cell phones. The superficial and fragmented information on these platforms, however, contribute nothing to improving their language proficiency and critical thinking. Plus, by using the keyboard to write, people are forgetting how to do so using pen and paper.

In a book written in the 1940s, Luo Changpei, the master of modern Chinese linguistics, says language is the vehicle that carries forward culture. Chinese people have been using the Chinese language to express themselves and record history for thousands of years. Therefore, we cannot afford to entrust this cultural code to machines.

The inability of an increasing number of people to write correctly with pen and paper should prompt authorities to thoroughly reform the education system. Some measures have already been taken in this regard. By 2016, for example, the Beijing educational bureau will increase the proportion of Chinese language and lower that of English in high school and college entrance exams. And the measure will be extended to the rest of the country to compel schools to lay greater emphasis on teaching the mother tongue.


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