Beginners should skip writing characters by hand, use computers instead: teachers

Sino-Platonic Papers is rereleasing a much more recent issue this week. This issue, no. 102 from March 2000, is by two university professors of Mandarin Chinese who advocate a “penless” approach for beginning students of Mandarin: i.e., students should use specially designed software on computers to write characters and not bother at first with learning to write characters by hand.
Here is the abstract:

In view of the fact that hand-writing Chinese characters is the most frustrating factor in Chinese language learning, we propose in this article a fairly radical approach that could bring a fundamental change into Chinese language teaching. Our suggestion is abolishing the requirement for writing Chinese characters by hand at the beginning of Chinese language learning process, and utilizing Chinese word-processing software instead to help the students

  1. bypass the difficulties entailed by character hand-writing,
  2. achieve an early development of writing skill, and
  3. reach a comprehensive improvement of their language competence.

In this article, we have offered our assessment on the following three aspects:

  1. The degree to which character hand-writing constitutes a major obstacle to early Chinese language learning;
  2. The benefits of using Chinese word-processing software in acquisition of Chinese language skills;
  3. The side effects from adopting this approach and the possibilities of their overcoming.

We believe this proposal addresses one of the most pressing issues in today’s Chinese language teaching, and should generate fruitful discussions among Chinese language teachers, as well as general interest in the field of foreign language teaching.

The full article is here: Penless Chinese Character Reproduction, by Theresa Jen and Ping Xu. This is a quick-loading HTML file.

The “penless” approach also has a website: Penless Chinese Language Learning: A Computer-Assisted Approach. Has anyone tried the software available there?

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