Writing in Chinese isn’t only the bane of foreign learners, it is increasingly becoming a lost skill among native Chinese as well.
Want China Times reports that a recent “spelling bee” hosted by CCTV revealed that only 30 percent of the well-studied 14 year old contestants could correctly write the Chinese characters for “lai ha ma,” meaning ‘toad’ in Chinese. The possible culprit? Technology.
With the rise of computers and cell phones, the need to remember character stroke order/construction and to practice penmanship is diminishing. Instead of learning the strokes required to properly execute a character; today one only needs to be able to identify it.
Technology is being accused of wreaking havoc on penmanship in many languages, not only Chinese. One can only speculate on what the long term consequences might be, especially with the explosive growth of apps like WeChat. WeChat users can bypass the need to read or type entirely by sending short voice messages instead. Throw in phrase prediction and automated translation and future generations may also bypass the need to think as well.