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

Read it at The Wall Street Journal

Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

Image: Big Think
Big Think Edge
  • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
  • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Google Maps apologizes for going rogue in Japan

The navigation tool has placed a school in the sea, among other things.

Strange Maps
  • Google has apologized for the sudden instability of its maps in Japan.
  • Errors may stem from Google's long-time map data provider Zenrin – or from the cancellation of its contract.
  • Speculation on the latter option caused Zenrin shares to drop 16% last Friday.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

A new theory explains Jupiter’s perplexing origin

A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
  • Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
  • Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
Keep reading Show less