It wasn’t until I moved to China that I even considered I could ignore the writing side of Chinese. My initial plan was just to learn Chinese, and that meant all four cores of the language – reading, writing, listening and speaking. After all, that’s the way it is with most foreign languages.
But then I found out my classmate in Yangshuo wasn’t bothering to learn writing at all. How can that be? I thought. How can you learn a language without writing it? Turns out, you can still learn it more or less fine. When living in China, your most important skills by far are listening, speaking and reading. And in this age in which we live, most people type Chinese (whether it be on the computer or on the phone), and to type Chinese all you need to know is pinyin and recognising the characters. After all, how often do I even have to write English by hand these days? Pretty rarely, and usually no more than a few words. Writing Chinese is so difficult – even native Chinese people, including my Chinese teacher, frequently have to look up how to write some words.