How Do You Spell "Toad" Using Chinese Characters?

The Chinese Characters Dictation Competition invited students to test their knowledge of written Chinese at a time when some say technology is eroding language skills. A nationwide audience tuned in for last Friday's finale.

What's the Latest Development?


This past August, a small Chinese educational channel launched the first-ever Chinese Characters Dictation Competition, in which students from all over the country demonstrated their ability to spell words using traditional Chinese characters. By the time the finale aired last Friday, the contest had amassed a popularity that put it on par with other top-rated shows, such as the singing competition "The Voice." The winner, Lu Jialei, studies both Chinese and English at a foreign languages school in Hangzhou, and says that both languages "are each beautiful in their own way."

What's the Big Idea?

The competition's creator, Guan Zhengwen, said he was inspired by the US' Scripps National Spelling Bee and the way in which it "allows people from different backgrounds to find common ground in an American dream that they share in." This ties in with attempts to make Mandarin Chinese the language standard in a country that has a wide range of languages and dialects. It also helps promote classic written language skills, which some fear are being eroded thanks to smartphones. A poll of adults in the competition audience showed that only 30 percent knew how to write "toad" -- a word with three characters and 46 individual strokes -- correctly.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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