As I was getting started in writing the “Word of the Week,” I realized I was going to run head first with a constant issue of mine: romanization. I am not a fan of romanization. One language can have different forms of romanization. Different linguists have developed different methods. It irks me. I’ve never learned an Asian language using Roman letters. And I really hope I never have to do so.
When I learned Chinese, I read it through learning 注音符號 (zhu yin fu hao; I’ll explain in a later post) and characters. I never officially learned pinyin or Wade-Giles romanization, although I am aware of them. If I need to write out romanization (as I do on this blog), I’m never consistent in which one I use and sometimes I don’t even really know which one I am using. I apologize in advance if it causes confusion.
I’m not against romanization so people who do not know characters can distinguish between words (ie street signs, train stops, etc.) or when a transliteration is needed (ie proper names). But reading romanized Chinese hurts my head since I have to filter it and think in Chinese while looking at the English alphabet. I think Chinese makes the most sense when one understands the characters. There’s so much beauty behind them. The characters themselves tell a story of the word being described. I’m also referring to traditional characters (that might be another post, too!).
I’m hoping to learn Japanese and Korean in the way I learned Chinese and English: by listening first, grasping the sounds, then learning the corresponding letters or characters. But most books teach by introducing the characters with romanization to help with pronunciation. It might help, I’ve found that the pronunciation is really inaccurate just going by the romanization.