A few months ago, I was watching the Chinese drama, “Love Through a Millennium (2015)” (aka “Love Weaves Through a Millennium”) which is based on the Korean drama “Queen In Hyun’s Man.” I actually liked the Korean version better than the Chinese version, but there was a scene in the Chinese version that I can’t forget. The male Imperial scholar official, Gong Ming (Jing Bo Ran) was used to reading traditional Chinese characters because he was from the past and had time-travelled to the future. While visiting a convention or something, he saw a Chinese word character that he couldn’t read. When he asked the female lead character, Lin Xiang Xiang (Zheng Shuang), what the word meant, she replied, “It is the word for ‘love.’ However, it was the simplified version of modern Chinese. After studying the character for a moment, Gong Ming commented, “I see, they took the ‘heart’ out of the character for ‘love’.
Apparently, in the 1950’s and 60’s, the People’s Republic of China simplified some of the Chinese characters. Classical Chinese or traditional characters are still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, or overseas Chinese communities. So, our time traveler, Gong Ming, was having a bit of trouble with some of the modern simplified characters.
I had to see what he was talking about, so I Googled the Chinese character for ‘heart’. It happens to be the same in both simplified and traditional Chinese and is a radical in itself.
Then I Googled the Chinese character for ‘love’ in both the simplified and tradition versions.
I circled the Chinese character for ‘heart’ in the traditional character with a red line. (Someone once explained to me that parts of a character can be squished shorter, or more narrow, or even turned on their side to fit into a box shape.) The heart is a little squished in the traditional character. It is clearly missing in the simplified version. I actually thought that it was rather sad that the ‘heart’ was taken out in order to make the entire character easier for people to read.
Due to this one scene in a Chinese drama, I realized that I could actually see the difference in Chinese squiggles. I was happy to learn one word and didn’t think much about it until a couple of months later when I was watching a Taiwanese drama called “Lady Maid Maid (2012).” I was busy reading the subtitles, but then, out-of-the-blue, I realized that the title,had the traditional Chinese character for ‘love’ in it. So, I Googled each of the characters and found out that the characters were from right to left, Love Situation Female Servant. Even though it didn’t ‘flow’ very well in English, it sure described the drama a lot better than “Lady Maid Maid.” But the best part was that I had spotted the Chinese character for ‘love’ without even thinking about it.
At this time, I don’t want to invest any money into buying a large book about learning Chinese because let’s face it–I am just playing around with it at this point. I already have a bookshelf full of reference books for other languages and I don’t need to add more. (Language study take up a lot of space). The Internet, however, provides quite a bit of material for self-directed study. In my next post, I will discuss some of the resources that I have found for self-directed Chinese language study.
Right now, I want to point out that it is never to late to learn another language. Neurolinguistics and MRI brain imaging are bringing proof to the table that adults still have quite a bit of brain plasticity left when it comes to second language acquisition. In addition, research about Emotion-Based Language Instruction is highlighting that the key to improving students’ motivation to learn a new language is closely tied to engaging the emotions. Almost anyone who watches foreign dramas and films with subtitles might agree with “Who doesn’t want to hear a love confession in all the glory of its native language?” That alone might be all the emotion-based motivation a person needs to persevere in learning a second language.