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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Multicultural Kids Carnival: Handwriting around the world

It is September's Multicultural Kids Blog Carnival and the topic is schools around the world. It is hosted by The Educator's Spin On It. Because I've been thinking about handwriting for a while, so I think this post would fit nicely, if it's not entirely on-topic. 

They say that handwriting is more personal than typing because every person writes in their own way. There are also apparently many advantages to teaching children handwriting- although I have my doubts on that. But have you noticed that as in every country handwriting is tought differently, handwriting can sometimes give away your culture? 

When I studied in Germany and showed somebody my notes, she said: "You have a typically Polish handwriting". I was surprised and the correlation between culture and handwriting has always been on my mind ever since.

So I reached out to my very favourite blogger group and asked them to send me pictures of books, their own handwriting for this post. And I received lots of great pictures to illustrate the differences. 

Of course, there are most visible when the alphabets are different. 

For example here you have Chinese handwriting and books.

Miss Panda Chinese kindly explained to me how this works: 

"The first one is a Chinese character practice sheet.  You can see 4 characters on top and below each character you see the stroke orders.  The bottom is the characters that my kids copy and practice.

The 2nd pic is a close-up shot for the characters and stroke orders.The third one is my handwriting in Chinese and in English.  The first line (read top down)on the right is the stroke by stroke easy to read style.  But you don't really see that a lot from adults.  The second line on the left is regular writing with the running style touch. Chinese characters have stroke orders which means that kids learn how to write one stroke at a time. The general rules are from top then down, from left to the right. Teachers are strict about the strokes. Children write a new character about 10 times as homework. So you would easily write 100 characters for 10 new characters that you have learned at school."

I especially love the handwritten characters, they seem so clean and organized- not like me at all!

Then, we have Arabic handwriting. To me, it is fascinating because it looks like a decoration, it's beautiful!  This one is courtesy of MarocMama

Amanda says: "My sons are learning to write Arabic. Here's a note from their lesson. This is on learning the letter b and different forms of it when a vowel follows."

Varya was kind enough to send me a sample of her handwriting in Russian and English. I've always felt a connection to other Slavic countries (myself being 1/4 Ukrainian), but the Cyrylic alphabet is especially appealing, because you can have similar languages (Polish and Russian are both Slavic languages and are relatively close to each other), written with different alphabets. To me, Russian is beautiful. I was named Olga after a heroine in a Russian opera! I wanted to learn it in school, but unfortunately the classes were cancelled. So, here's a bilingual English and Russian sample!

Notice how Varya's handwriting in Russian is more connected to each other while when she writes in English, the letter stand apart from each other. Varya says: "In Russia we first learn prints and along we trace various curves (I will look for our Azbuka book and try to take some pics for you) - to prepare for cursive. Then we learn cursive writings and I remember teachers being quite strict about it in school.

But even countries using the Latin alphabet vary when it comes to their approach to handwriting. French and Italian schools are among the ones that are very strict when it comes to what is considered good handwriting. 

Multilingual Mama send me pictures of books children use to learn to write.

Cordelia explains: "There will be one from a book which teaches movement and shapes in preparation for French script. Then there are a couple of pictures of story books that I lucked out in inheriting that was printed in French script. Finally I found a piece of old homework from when I was a kid."

Expatsincebirth also send me pictures of her Italian handwriting:

Ute mentions that she learned to write in German, Italian and French: "In my case it was so, as our French teacher insisted on the French handwriting, whilst our German teacher on the German and the Italian teacher on the Italian one. They were not too strict about it, but anyway, we used books written in cursive-handwriting and it was somehow natural to switch from one to the other. And I did mix them all up. So I write the Italian "r" and the german "r", depending if it's at the beginning or the centre of the word." She also says that she combines all the different styles into one that is very personal.

And, last, here are some pictures of mine. I used to have many children's books in German that would show German style handwriting, but right now I only have Polish ones- here there are. 

 The book you see hereis called "Elementarz"- a learning book, and is one that is easily recognizable by many Polish people. I think I used it to learn handwriting. The book is great because it introduces letter in a way that makes you learn them easily- for example, using just two, three letters, you can write simple words. Notice how different the capital "A" is- the book is from the 70ties, so I think children nowadays don't spell "A" that way anymore. The second picture shows both typed and handwritten characters while the third one shows the whole alphabet, both typed and written. Some letters are totally different, and of course there are the special Polish characters that don't exist in other languages.

And here's my own handwriting, in English and Polish. I had to re-write it several times and even now it's not perfect- can you read it?

Where did you learn handwriting? Did you like it? Were the teachers strict about handwriting? Do you still use it as an adult? Tell me in the comments!

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  1. I like all the examples. I was one who used cursive only when it was specifically enforced (until about 5th grade, after which the teachers didn't care). The instant I wasn't required to use it, I switched back to print, which I still use today. After a few years I realized I had developed my own, super-efficient :) hybrid. All those extra lines made traditional cursive way, way too slow for me.

    Just this week I mentioned to my husband that I'm not sure which style of handwriting to teach (and when) when my daughter starts school. Where I'm from we learn print first and then cursive in 2nd or 3rd grade. Where we are now (and where he is from) they learn cursive from day one. I will have to decide on a timeline and also a style - since as you mention the letters are formed differently in different countries.

    When I mentioned this indecision to my husband, he said, "She'll learn the Slovak style, of course. And with a fountain pen, of course." :) So I guess his mind is made up.

    1. Hi Melissa, thank you for your comment. In Poland, we also learn cursive from day one- and I remember it as one big struggle! My writing was always criticized and ridiculed, and they even thought I had dislexia- I don't, I just have sensory issues and lack of spacial orientation. Anyway, we were not supposed to write with a fountain pen, but with a normal one and it was such a huge pressure to do it right, or re-write everything. I am teaching my children to read and write, but more in a playful way- they know block letters and my big girl knows some small caps, and she can type a lot on my computer. I am not sure how children learn to read and write here- my girl goes to an international school, but the most important thing I think is that they learn it.

  2. I was in a commitee about a handwriting reform at our school and we debated for hours. You can imagine what happens if you have to find a way to satisfy parents of about 50 different nationalities. It's simply not possible. I know that many parents consider handwriting as an expression of their culture and want their children to learn "their style" of handwriting. But what do you to when you have a multicultural family? Would you really teach your child up to 3 different handwritings? Believe me, it's confusing. My tip is to stick to the handwriting the kids learn at school. At least until they are proficient enough and then, if they are interested in it (!) and you still consider it important, you can add other styles. Especially because every handwriting style goes with another language and we don't teach our kids to write and read simultaneousely in more than 1 language at a time. - I just realized, Olga, that handwriting and language acquisition are very related. A great topic! Thanks for starting this discussion! I'm looking forward to read, hear about other opinions.

    1. Oh wow, Ute, that must have been really complicated! My father wanted me to use the French style of handwriting- which is more elaborate, and as I already struggled with writing in general, this would have been too much. My handwriting was so horrible that they thought I had dislexia- I don't, I just have sensory issues and lack of spacial relations and needed more time to do things than other children... I wish schools had more understanding of such issues...

  3. What a wonderful post! The descriptions and pictures tell the whole story, yet you give us even more information. I have bookmarked this post. Love, LOVE.

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you for your kind comment and I am glad you liked the post- which I think is more due to all these great bloggers, I just put these together. Oh, and please DO share this with your child.

  4. I write in cursive most of the time. My military job forced me to print in all capital letters for various forms and other written correspondence that dates to pre-typewriter days (which now has mostly been eclipsed by using computers and fill-in forms), so when I have to fill out information on forms, I use all-caps out of habit.

    As I only know English, I never realized that different languages could write the same letters so differently, so thanks for teaching me something new!

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment. Yes, I also use caps on form but I do prefer if I can type them in- so much better to read! In the end, it doesn't matter how children learn to read and write, the important thing is that they learn it- without too much trauma!


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