Handwriting Across Languages

My studies of Ukrainian continue, albeit slowly, and as part of this, I’ve been working hard to learn the cursive script which differs from printed Cyrillic on some key ways, but also differs from American cursive (obviously). My approach has been to write out new sentences I encounter in Duolingo in my little notebook:

I decided to also use the opportunity to re-learn American cursive after decades of neglect, and found a great example video here:

Since I’ve been practicing handwriting for both Ukrainian and English, I figured maybe I should practice Japanese as well. However, it’s a bit different with Japanese. There is no cursive in the sense that European languages have, though older Japanese writing had a loose system called hentaigana (not to be confused with hentai … this isn’t that kind of blog). Tofugu has a nice write-up here.

Japanese does have a pretty sophisticated calligraphy tradition both inherited from Chinese culture, plus local innovations. Typically, when writing calligraphy in Japanese, there’s three broad styles to choose from:

  • Regular script (楷書 kaisho) – based on Chinese calligraphic tradition, this is just the standard way of writing Chinese characters.
  • Cursive (草書 sōsho) – as the name implies, this is the cursive form of Chinese characters, often done to abbreviate and write things more easily, while keeping the brush (wet with ink) on the paper. Just like Western cursive.
  • Semi-cursive (行書 gyōsho) – this was a particular style that flourished in Heian Period Japan onward, but also has its roots in Chinese tradition, and represents a halfway point between regular script and cursive.

You can also see a nice comparison of the three here:

My wife has training in Japanese calligraphy, and knows how to write in all three styles, but I can’t even write standard Japanese well:

Me practicing a sentence from my son’s Japanese textbook

But the point is is that as with any handwriting, practice makes perfect. Find a pen you like writing with, and don’t be afraid to practice a little every day. You’d be surprised how much easier it gets within a few days, weeks, etc. When I was self-studying Ancient greek, I kept writing sentences out, and after a time, my handwriting got pretty good:

The weird thing was that I wasn’t even trying to improve. I was so focused on studying and writing things out in my notes, that after a while it got easier, smoother, etc. Plus, it’s good stimulation for the mind, which is handy as you get older. 😏

So, whatever language interests you, pick up a pen and start writing out interesting sentences and see where it takes you.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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