On Writing Chinese (or 华语)


In case you don’t know what that means, it just says, “I just found out yesterday that my computer can write Chinese words!” I’ve been having a field day with it, typing Chinese messages to a friend, giving her plenty of opportunities to execute sweet revenge on me, after all my mocking her English, as her Chinese’s infinitely better than mine.

Writing in Chinese takes me ages. A sentence such as the one above takes me 30 seconds to a minute to write, while the equivalent in English would take something like 10 seconds, tops.

When I write in Chinese, I have to try to think in Chinese. My very limited Chinese vocabulary means that I don’t think very much. My Chinese vocabulary hasn’t changed much since I was 12, which is probably the age I officially passed a major Chinese paper. I do not remember any time after that where I got a grade any better than a D7, the equivalent of 49%.

This reminds me of an issue that I’ve long thought about, but never really bothered to find out more: how does language ability impact thinking ability in general, if at all? If my vocabulary was larger, would it mean that I would be able to process more thoughts? Perhaps if I knew the word for a, say, emotion, I would be able to verbalise that emotion, which would allow me to associate other thoughts or feelings, leading to ever more associations and so on.

Would it mean that I would have more precise thoughts? If I had a word for a shade of red, say, crimson, wouldn’t it mean that I would be able to think more precisely? The thoughts I conjure up when I think of “red” bring up memories different from those when I think of “crimson”.

So does improving one’s language ability improve one’s thinking ability?

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