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Chinese Conversation Clips – What’s it like for Chinese children learning characters?

English translation of video content:

Chris: While at school, is it the case that sometimes you know the word but you are not sure how to write it? Like when you are writing an article, you know the word you want to use, but just not how to write it. What would you do then?

Becca: Actually it is true even today. We call it “picking up the pen and forgetting the character”, which means you suddenly forget how to write a character, even the most common and simple ones, when you pick up your pen and try to write something. In English, it is like you suddenly forget how to spell a word. Of course, we have a lot of tools that can help us with this, like dictionaries or mobile phones. But if you are taking an exam as a student, like when you are in a test that asks you to write about your family and your parents’ jobs, you can use pinyin to substitute for the characters that you forget.

Chris: Up until what age can you use Pinyin?

Becca: It is probably used most in the first and second grade, and very little in the third and fourth grade.

Chris: So if you are in the third or fourth grade and you forget how to write a certain character, what would you do? Would you change to another expression, or just use Pinyin?

Becca: Certainly, when it is for an exam, you would want to avoid situations like this by changing the word.

Chris: After all people do forget, including adults. It is normal to not that you don’t know how to write characters that you don’t use often.

Becca: Yes it is. And even for adults, we can be using the words in the wrong places or in inappropriate situations. It is quite normal.

Chris: Then it is mainly the reading and writing that are difficult, right? For foreign learners, the pronunciation is really difficult.

Becca: It’s exactly the opposite. Is it really much harder for foreigners to learn to listen and speak Chinese?

Chris: Both are hard. And the pronunciation is indeed an issue. Do Chinese native speakers encounter characters or words that they have no idea how to pronounce?

Becca: When you start learning, it is definitely possible that you will find characters and words you do not know.

Chris: Do you think Chinese people make mistakes with pronunciation? Is it common in daily conversation?

Becca: I think the pronunciation is not a huge problem.

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