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A test of characters

October 23, 2009

Re "Chinese factions' different strokes," Oct. 18

I find it shortsighted of each side to take the either/or position.

Traditionalists clinging to the old ways are not facing the fact that a tremendous amount of business is done with mainland China. Supporters of the simplified form of writing are blinded by the present and are throwing away thousands of years of their heritage.

Those who learned only traditional script will have a disadvantage doing business with the mainland. Those who learned only simplified script will have a disadvantage doing business with Taiwan (not an insignificant economic "dragon") as well as being shut out of important historical texts and beautiful poetry.

It's like saying, "Math is hard, so you don't have to learn it." If I could learn both forms, anyone can.

As a parent, I would want to give my children as many tools as possible to help them in their future.

Ying Sang

Pleasanton, Calif.

Language is one of the key elements of a culture. Words evolve, change, renew or disappear. But traditional Chinese characters have a cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years. It is not obsolete and never will be. As Chinese people, we must firmly uphold our traditional culture.

A large segment of the Chinese population who use traditional script should not be left out just to meet the concerns of others. To limit oneself to simplified Chinese is to separate oneself from an important part of the Chinese community, resulting in a loss of complete Chinese language and culture.

There is no reason for us to bicker on this issue, because traditional and simplified Chinese can coexist.

Peter Sun

Los Angeles

The writer is senior press officer for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.


As a Chinese translator and seven-year resident of Shanghai, I had never heard any desire for children to learn traditional characters, except from stories about Taiwanese living on the mainland.

This controversy is neither new nor of any real cultural significance. Chinese characters have been changed several times over the last few thousand years.

If Taiwanese parents want their children to learn traditional characters, that's their decision. But the idea of schools requiring other students to learn traditional rather than simplified characters is nothing more than trying to force children to adopt a fading culture.

As someone who is in love with the Chinese language, I believe learning traditional characters is mainly valuable in China when you go to sing karaoke, as most of the videos are from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Otherwise, if you plan on exploring the vast country that is now the place to be for investors and entrepreneurs, learn simplified characters.

Darren Taylor



In reality, both traditional and simplified Chinese are one and the same language.

Newly arrived Chinese immigrants in the U.S. can read local Chinese newspapers in traditional Chinese characters, and Taiwan businesspeople who reside in Beijing can likewise read People's Daily.

Language naturally evolves and should not be authorized by a totalitarian regime. If the U.S. government, for the purpose of easy learning, ordered its citizens to use "nite" instead of "night," everybody would rebel.

Simplified Chinese characters were originally designed to improve literacy. It is expedient to decrease illiteracy in China, but learning simplified Chinese should not be used to replace traditional.

Derek Hsu

Los Angeles

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