Why Learning to Write Chinese Is a Waste of Time: A Modest Proposal

Joseph R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


This article argues that for students of Chinese and Japanese, learning to write Chinese characters (hanzi/kanji) by hand from memory is an inefficient use of resources. Rather, beginning students should focus on character/word recognition (reading) and electronic writing. Although electronic technologies have diminished the usefulness of Chinese character handwriting, its cultural importance remains. This leads to a hegemony of hanzi/kanji through which the assumed primacy of the written language is reinforced. After reviewing these conditions, strategies are offered to integrate handwriting skills with the new electronic writing technologies, creating an efficient and culturally sensitive program of instruction in hanzi/kanji writing. The article concludes with suggestions for further research needed to explore the theses of the essay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-251
Number of pages15
JournalForeign Language Annals
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Chinese
  • Chinese characters
  • Electronic writing
  • Hanzi/kanji
  • Writing instruction


Dive into the research topics of 'Why Learning to Write Chinese Is a Waste of Time: A Modest Proposal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this