Updated: May 11, 2022
Learning a new language typically means understanding, speaking, reading, and writing it, but with technology, writing Mandarin is made easier if you know pinyin. If you’re not familiar with pinyin, it is the romanization system of Mandarin Chinese primarily used in Mainland China. It is used to help learners with the pronunciation of Chinese characters, and with the prevalence of smartphones, it allows you to digitally write characters in Mandarin too. Pinyin essentially makes writing characters by hand obsolete.
Is Pinyin Enough?
The big question students and parents might ask is: do those studying Mandarin still need to learn to write Chinese characters by hand? The answer is not as simple as yes or no, and it comes down to your and your child’s learning goals. Writing characters stroke-by-stroke on a phone or tablet is much slower than using pinyin, but not impossible.
It is definitely important to know some of the basics of writing to help identify characters and be able to read. It’s not necessary to be a master of Chinese characters, but you do want to know and have basic handwriting skills to have an understanding.
Learning to handwrite Chinese characters enhances the learning experience. For some children, the more Chinese characters they learn, the more enjoyment they are likely to get when they start associating the characters with their meanings.
Additional Learning Goals
When it comes to learning to write Chinese characters beyond the basics, it should be because you want to invest the time to learn 1,000+ characters. Typically you would only want to do this if you are looking to work within China or attain higher learning within China. In these cases, it is very important to become more proficient in writing than if you are simply trying to learn the language to keep your heritage language alive and be able to communicate with family members and friends.
For students of Mandarin who are seeking to do business or live in China, it is vital to know as many characters as possible to succeed in their professional lives. For everyone else, using the pinyin system will allow you to communicate, in writing, electronically with any friends and family who also read and understand Mandarin. Once you know enough characters where you can recognize them, read them, and understand them when you are learning practical Mandarin, it is really all you need.
The Basics Are A Great Start
At Panda Mandarin, we focus on learning to write enough to learn the basics and fundamentals of how to construct Chinese characters, in addition to the foundations of listening, speaking, and reading. In the long run, our goal isn’t for the student to be a proficient writer unless that is a goal they have set for themselves.
In general, it is uncommon for people to write by hand anymore — much like with Western languages, everyone types on their phone, computer, or tablet. And, if they’re not typing, they can use speech-to-text. Ultimately we want you to be the one who sets your proficiency goals in your learning journey, and through our courses, we will help you meet them!