On Writing Chinese (or 华语)

我昨天发现了我的电脑可以写华文字!

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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