August 2, 2010 | Hindi

No Cursive!

Hindi may have a lot of symbols, but at least I don't have to learn cursive.

Today I read a little more in my Beginner’s Hindi Script book, started in on Pimsleur, and also began my Rosetta Stone Hindi lessons.

This Is Teaching Me How to Write

This Is Teaching Me How to Write

I have to confess, my initial reaction is that Hindi is kind of hard. Quite a few of the sounds are really not at all familiar.

One thing I am grateful for, however, is the absence of a cursive style. When you handwrite in Hindi, you basically follow the printed forms as they would appear in a book.

If you have never studied a language with another alphabet or writing system, it may not immediately be apparent why a lack of cursive is a blessing, but for the foreign-language student, it really is.

In English, cursive is pretty radically different from printed letters. Think about how the two sentences below would strike you visually if you not only didn’t speak English, but also didn’t even know the Roman (i.e., our) alphabet.

Remorse, Two Renderings

Remorse, Two Renderings

There are plenty of physical similarities between the two lines, but there are many differences, too. For the uninitiated, the gap between a loop and a straight line for an l is huge. To read—and particularly to write—the second requires a bunch of additional training, whereas the first line is more or less a slightly irregular equivalent of what you would see in published print materials.

It is interesting: some people spend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that other people no longer know how to write cursive. I do not.  I think I became even less likely to bemoan it after I began studying Russian last year and realized that, while I had a grasp of the print lettering, I couldn’t read or write cursive. Given my time constraints, I decided to skip Russian cursive altogether and focus on grammar, vocabulary, etc., instead. I think it was the right choice.

Cursive is in general supposed to be faster to write, I guess because all the letters flow together, but I find it extremely efficient to print in English. I also find printed lettering more beautiful, but maybe that’s just me.

Yes, it is romantic to look at old handwritten documents (the Declaration of Independence, for example), but independence would have been declared with or without cursive. And I could have learned a lot of useful stuff in third grade during all the hours that were dedicated to making my cursive legible and pretty for my future correspondence.

As it turns out, these days I almost always print my handwritten thank-you notes and letters. And most people I know just e-mail such things. So cursive is probably headed for extinction.

Civilization marches along.

Comments (3)

Michelle • Posted on Sun, November 27, 2011 - 12:00 pm EST

Living in the UK (growing up during the 80s-90s) and despite us being taught how to write joined up, it never looked as beautiful and neat as the letters I would receive from my American penpals. I admit it, I was jealous. Our country is full of wannabe doctors - or so you’d think by looking at our handwriting. Altho I can’t help but think that pretty handwriting must take longer with the extra loops and tails than (at least my) scruffy handwriting… But… I’m still jealous lol :p

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, November 30, 2011 - 7:04 pm EST

So you are saying AMERICANS have better handwriting? That’s amazing! (How cute that you had American pen pals. My only pen pal was from the U.S., so I couldn’t have made a transatlantic comparison.)

James • Posted on Mon, January 30, 2012 - 4:52 pm EST

I also learned “ball and stick” printing and Palmer style cursive, and never really liked the latter. Then I discovered Italic, and so for some years I have been torturing my handwriting into that style. The letter forms are the same for both printing and cursive; cursive merely adds the connections to the letters.

I love your blog - It inspires me in my own language learning hobby.

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