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Posts: 373

Governor

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Q: Why do Chinese people mimic writing?

Ever noticed how Chinese people use their index finger to write in the air, on their hand or on a table to understand something or to be understood. Don't think I'm just talking about English, they paint the air for Chinese too as if reveals some mysterious, before not understood, secret and expect it to solve any communication problem. Once I had an important issue to talk with to the head of the school. One girl translated and I spent hours watching her write on the table with her finger. Talk about crazy town.

10 years 2 weeks ago in  Culture - Lanzhou

 
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Posts: 1318

Shifu

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That's because any word in Chinese has multiple meaning. So if the meaning of the word is not explained within the context of the conversation then they have two options to explain the word: either give another example of the word that they would know the meaning for, or to draw it out so the person can understand what character they are talking about.

That's why even profession translators can't translate if the jump into the middle of a conversation. "What are they saying?" "I don't know. I don't know the full story."

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10 years 2 weeks ago
 
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Governor

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I agree with DaBen. Moreover, I have passed many Chinese classes being taught in my school. Within the primary school Chinese classes, as well as in my own classes (at times when my Chinese co-teacher has the floor), children are encouraged to air write words and letters as a way of instruction , I supposed working towards the concept of total physical response.

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10 years 2 weeks ago
 
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Emperor

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It's their way of visualizing the word. Remember, they have limited access to a native speaker so they are not used to hearing the word, but rather seeing it.

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10 years 2 weeks ago
 
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Governor

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They may be trying to think how the word is spelled or something...kids use to do that in school during the spelling bee so they try to get a visual that way since they couldn't use paper and pencil. I'm not exactly sure why people do that also I saw a guy that mimicked everything you said with his lips. He said it's a form of shadowing and it can help you learn much faster and easier. How true is that? Not sure at all! Try it out!!

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9 years 29 weeks ago
 
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It's simple really.  In Chinese, there are multiple meanings for each sound (and tone), but the character is a known entity.  Therefore if you say "shi" + any tone, there may be 20+ meanings, even when used in context.  To quickly relay the message, "air writing" is used to let other people know exactly what character they are referencing.  You can see this happen often especially in these two circumstances:  First, when someone is telling their family name (ex.  "Wang" is a common family name, but there are several characters for "Wang" used for family names) and second, when two people from different regions are talking, as pronunciations often differ from place to place.  Technically, a Mandarin speaker and a Cantonese speaker could communicate by "air writing" even if they don't understand each other's spoken language, because the characters are the same.

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9 years 29 weeks ago
 
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