In praise of writing by hand

Transcribing foreign language texts by hand is something I’ve been doing a fair bit of lately, and I find it has significantly strengthened the rapport I feel with languages I know quite well and those I am still learning. Given the proliferation of computers, ebooks and all manner of handheld electronic devices, handwriting for language learning is not as necessary or as popular as it perhaps once was. Nevertheless, I still find that producing letters and characters by hand can yield tremendous results not only in terms of retaining vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, but also with regard to punctuation and spelling. It’s an intensive exercise, but one that forces you to slow down and pay attention to detail. Most importantly, though, I find it very enjoyable.

Anyone else here enjoy good, old-fashioned handwriting?

Probably a good thing to do, Chris, but something I never do because it is a skill that I need so seldom. I can only write on the computer now in all languages that do not use the Roman alphabet. I used to be able to write Chinese, and never learned to write Japanese or Russian by hand.

Glad to see someone else who does so! I really enjoy writing in another language, especially if it uses another script. It sounds weird, but I find it pleasurable to write a page of Russian, Spanish or whatever, and then look back at my work. Makes me feel like a child, proud of his finger painting or seashell picture.

I have never studied any spelling rules for French, Italian, Spanish, etc. I simply copied books by hand. Of course, I chose books I was interested in and I have to say that I think that this exercise did not only help improve my spelling but also my understanding of how words work in context. I definitely seem to retain words and the way they are used much better when I write them by hand. Even though I do not routinely write by hand in Japanese and Chinese I do so from time to time to get a better feeling for the characters. Besides, there are times when you just don’t have a computer at hand. I remember the first time I went to Russia (and so far that’s also been the only time :wink: I wanted to leave a short note on a piece of paper for my host family. It was only then that I realized that I could not write Russian properly by hand :wink:
Fortunately, it is not that time consuming to learn how to write Russian by hand if you compare it to other languages such as Chinese or Japanese.
To sum it up, I think transcribing foreign language texts is a great way to practice your language skills and to enhance what you already know. So, you are not the only one out there enjoying this kind of exercise :wink:

I’ve been keeping a diary on Moleskine notebooks for one year, I write it mostly in English, but sometimes in Spanish as well, and in Italian sporadically.

Yes, I think the sensory feeling of paper is incomparable to a computer keyboard. Whenever I sit down in front of my laptop, I get distracted by so many notifications, not to mention the constant appeal of internet browsing, that I can’t just calm down and write a page in Word. I tried to find solutions to this problem, even to the point of considering buying a Brother digital typewriter, but then I said to myself it was nuts.

On paper, though, you miss instant vocabularies (unless you have them installed on your cellphone, which at present I have not). Both computers and old fashioned notebooks have their pros and cons, it all boils down to a matter of preference. If I could just stay focussed when using my pc, I’d rather by a wide margin typing on a keyboard.

Anyone has distraction-avoiding techniques to share?

I certainly do this all the time.

I tend to write a text until I can get a copy with great handwriting (probably a symptom of OCD, oh well) and it certainly helps me remember parts that I never would have before.

Anyone has distraction-avoiding techniques to share?

It helps to get a lot of it out of the way before you start studying.
Check your email, read the news, look at your social networking sites, refresh the rss reader, etc and only after doing all that, begin to study.

I find the quality of my concentration is shallower as I head into middle age. Now I am much happier and I think more productive doing three things at once than doing one thing at a time.

How do you write foreign scripts on the computer? I’ve been using google or my iPod to write in Russian, but that’s not too convenient.

Usually you can just change your input language. (on Mac computers almost all languages are already installed, otherwise you can download input systems, for example by Microsoft or google, for Japanese, Chinese and so on…)

I find it important to write by hand as well. Especially in Japanese.
Maybe, I haven’t done that exercise often enough in the last time.
It slows you down and makes you focus on details - even in your mothertongue, by the way.

Although Japanese somehow gave up on me, I love handwriting in all languages, Russian and Arabic are my favourites so far. I find that using a good fountain pen aids comprehension (a biro just doesn’t work that well for me).