Handwriting and little ones
The photo on the right is one of three seen in the subway in Shanghai. They’re advertisements for Phillips appliances. The image shows a young child chillaxin’ as a breeze goes by. The caption, in childlike handwriting, says 我家的房子会呼吸 wǒ jiā de fángzi huì hūxī, “my family’s house can breathe”.
Another in the series has a kid freaking the heck out at the shadow of a dinosaur and the caption, which I’m sure I don’t remember perfectly, says something like 哇！恐龙来啦 wa! kǒnglóng lái la, which translates as “holy crap! there’s an effing dinosaur!”
And a third, some girl, looking into a mirror, and thanks to a lightbulb, something, I don’t remember. It’s been a week since I saw these. Give me a break.
Here are my questions that those of you with young children in the Chinese education system may be able to answer.
First, how old is the kid in this picture? Sorry it’s from my phone through multiple panes of glass. However old he is, which I’ve never been much good at determining with children, all three ads show kids of about the same age and about the same handwriting style.
Second, would a kid that age be able to write those characters? There’s a chance that if pressed to do so, I wouldn’t be able to without some serious thought. I just don’t handwrite beyond the most common 100 characters. According to Jun Da’s frequency list, frequencies for these characters are…
我 – 9th
家 – 55th
的 – 1st
房 – 512th
子 – 37th
会 – 29th
呼 – 843rd
吸 – 924th
哇 – 2433rd
恐 – 891st
龙 – 696th
来 – 15th
啦 – 1194th
I admit 房 might give me pause, though only because I’d need a minute to remember which thing I need to add to 方. That’s if I were pressed to write it by hand. I just don’t write. And I gotta say, for some of these the frequency may be misleading. 乎, without the 口 radical, is ranked 408th and 及 is 113th. But whatever.
I’d guess the average kid that age couldn’t write those sentences, and might not be able to even read them. Again, lacking children, I can’t be sure, but I’m darn pretty sure.
So what does it really do to have characters that a kid could never write be done in kid handwriting? As a designer, which I haven’t been for years, I get that it conveys voice. But it feels disconnected to me in this instance. Maybe I’m just too aware of the difficulty of writing characters. Maybe I’m just threatened that this ___ year old kid can write better than I can when I’ve been here almost as long as he’s been alive. Whatever it is, I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this. And if you have kids about that age, quiz ’em! Let us know how they do. Gold star stickers to all Sinotots™ who take the quiz. XXS t-shirts to the winners when we ever get around to making them.
And while I’m on the topic of handwriting, here’s a sign that was in the cafeteria near where I live, which I’m sharing simply because I can appreciate the laziness of the writer, who after writing 19 other characters in an obviously intentionally stylised manner, couldn’t be bothered to write 谢 again, using ” in it’s place instead.
[Update: Syz’s third grade daughter’s rendition when he asked her to write the two sentences above: