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Why Learn ZhuYin ㄅㄆㄇㄈ (BoPoMoFo)

One of the main rea­sons we teach Zhuyin is the large amount of qual­i­ty chil­dren sto­ries is wide­ly avail­able from Tai­wan and Hong Kong. These chil­dren’s books typ­i­cal­ly use Tra­di­tion­al char­ac­ters along with Zhuyin pho­net­ics. By pro­vid­ing kids with inter­est­ing read­ing mate­r­i­al, we can keep chil­dren inter­est­ed in learn­ing Chi­nese in our after school pro­gram.

Chil­dren want fun sto­ries to read and we want to encour­age them to self-read as much as they can.

Mag­ic Tree­house is trans­lat­ed into Chi­nese



Supporting Children to Read Independently

Com­pare the fol­low­ing Ele­phant and Pig­gie (Mo Willems) sto­ries. For a child that knows zhuyin but may not have learned a vast amount of Chi­nese char­ac­ters, they can learn to read the sto­ry by them­selves. Con­trast that to the Sim­pli­fied Chi­nese ver­sion where unless you have some­one help­ing you with words, it is hard to read inde­pen­dent­ly.

Tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese with Zhuyin

Sim­pli­fied Chi­nese ver­sion

Tendency to Scan Pinyin instead of Recognizing Chinese Characters

In addi­tion, as dis­cussed below, a read­er has the option to scan and read only pinyin and not look at the Chi­nese char­ac­ters. How­ev­er, zhuyin forces the read­er to read across the Chi­nese char­ac­ters.

Below is an excerpt from Learn­ing Chi­nese – Pinyin or Zhuyin? (source) that dis­cuss­es the rea­sons why an Eng­lish-speak­er learn­ing Chi­nese may be slight­ly impact­ed by their abil­i­ty to read Eng­lish Pinyin much faster and get­ting less visu­al prac­tice with look­ing at & rec­og­niz­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ters.

Apart from pro­vid­ing a new sys­tem of pro­nun­ci­a­tion that enables you to com­plete remove your­self from any influ­ence of Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion, Zhuyin also has great ben­e­fits when read­ing Chi­nese. Learn­ers of Chi­nese will know this all too well – that when you look at a poster or news­pa­per that has both Eng­lish and Chi­nese, your eyes are auto­mat­i­cal­ly drawn to the Eng­lish. Nat­u­ral­ly, this prob­lem also occurs when read­ing Pinyin accom­pa­nied Chi­nese too, and is ampli­fied by the Pinyin being on a sep­a­rate line than the Chi­nese. Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing text:

When learn­ing Chi­nese and read­ing this text, the read­er is forced to look away from the Chi­nese to read the Pinyin, sub­se­quent­ly over­look­ing the Chi­nese:

When read­ing vocab­u­lary or ter­mi­nol­o­gy lists, as the Pinyin is even fur­ther away from the Chi­nese, the effect is more pro­nounced:

Again, result­ing in the Chi­nese being ignored or over­looked unless the read specif­i­cal­ly diverts their atten­tion to it:

Zhuyin, on the oth­er hand, is tucked in next to the char­ac­ter, almost becom­ing part of the char­ac­ter. It is near­ly impos­si­ble to read the Zhuyin with­out being exposed to the Chi­nese char­ac­ter. The result is that when read­ing Chi­nese, the read­er of Zhuyin receives increased expo­sure and rein­force­ment of the Chi­nese char­ac­ters, at the same time speed­ing up reten­tion.

Obvi­ous­ly the main set back up Zhuyin is that the learn­er must first mem­o­rise all of the char­ac­ters that rep­re­sent the Zhuyin alpha­bet. This process usu­al­ly takes a cou­ple of weeks, but as seen above, the long term ben­e­fits far out­weigh this tem­po­rary set­back.