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In Asia, ancient writing collides with the digital age

Posted on June 25, 2013
University student Akihiro Matsumura uses his tablet computer in Tokyo on June 19, 2013. Computers and smartphones have relieved youngsters like Matsumura of the need to remember how to write the thousands of Chinese characters or kanji in use across East Asia.

University student Akihiro Matsumura uses his tablet computer in Tokyo on June 19, 2013. Computers and smartphones have relieved youngsters like Matsumura of the need to remember how to write the thousands of Chinese characters or kanji in use across East Asia.

As a schoolboy, Akihiro Matsumura spent hundreds of hours learning the intricate Chinese characters that make up a part of written Japanese. Now, the graduate student can rely on his smartphone, tablet and laptop to remember them for him.

“Sometimes I don’t even bother to take notes in seminars. I just take out my tablet to shoot pictures of what instructors write on blackboards,” he told AFP.

Like millions of people across East Asia, 23-year-old Matsumura is forgetting the pictographs and ideographs that have been used in Japan and greater China for centuries.

While some bemoan what they see as the loss of history and culture, others say the shift frees up brainpower for more useful things, like foreign languages, and even improves writing as a whole.

Naoko Matsumoto, a professor of law who heads international legal studies at the prestigious Sophia University near Tokyo, said the students in her classes now write more fluently than their predecessors.

“I’m in my 40s and compared with my generation, they have more and more opportunities to write using Twitter” and other social networking services, she said.

“I think they are actually better at writing” because they write in a simple and easy-to-understand way, she said.

Priorities are changing with more emphasis placed on building logical thinking strategies—a case of content becoming more important than form.

Read more at: Phys.org

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