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I'd like to enroll in the Chinese Graphic Designer 101 program, please.
April 12, 2009 5:15 PM   Subscribe

I'd love to get tips/resources for 1) learning more about the Chinese language and culture for work travel, 2) doing graphic design for a Chinese audience and 3) learning more about working with Chinese writing (this was helpful, for example).* Thoughts? *Bonus points if anyone can tell me if there are any Chinese typefaces I could access that have a particularly whimsical, fun, or child-like feel.

My new job has a factory in China. I will definitely be traveling there at some future point and want to get a head start on studying the language and cultures a bit so that I have more understanding when I'm there. Can you recommend any other sites or tips that would make a tough language easier and less intimidating? I'll probably get the Rosetta Stone for Mandarin, but do you know of a good place to learn Chinese in Los Angeles or online? And if you've tried learning it, what are your tips?

The other thing is that my boss wants to sell more of our toy products in China than we currently are. For this reason I want to learn more about Chinese graphic design and working with Chinese characters. We can get the translations easily from people in the China office, but I want to make sure my designs look fun, appealing and readable to a Chinese audience.

posted by miss lynnster to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I started Mandarin in Sept at a community college in Sept.

As far as Chinese typefaces, since we're talking mainland here you're going to need the simplified characters. If the mainland Chinese are anything like the Japanese, and I'm pretty sure they are, rounded forms are child-oriented. Example found via google image search [the orange-colored character] . . . heh, checking I see that that character is actually 游 in the simplified hanzi.

The funny thing is that if you are concerned with typography of Chinese and not speaking and listening, you're going to find it a very easy language.

For fonts, I've got Adobe CS4 on 10.5 and there's really nothing good for you here AFAICT.
posted by mrt at 5:48 PM on April 12, 2009

Browsing the Letraset site I see:

DFP Yuan Simplified Chinese W 9 is the generic rounded font

You can look here for the general palette you have to work with typographically.

DFP Ya Song Simplified Chinese W 9 has got an early-20th century feel that is used a lot in Japan for a "Victorian" feel, Sherlock Holmesy scientific/mysterious.

DFP Zong Yi Simplified Chinese W 7 is pretty high-tech, if you have high-tech toys.

C O Yuen HKS™ Simplified Chinese Xbold takes rounded to the extreme.
posted by mrt at 6:05 PM on April 12, 2009

A friend of mine has a site called Signese, which is photos of Chinese characters in action on various signs and shop-fronts. Might be useful to get an idea of their use in the wild.
posted by Abiezer at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2009

On Signese, this is a good example of a child-like, whimsical font:
posted by Xianny at 7:07 PM on April 12, 2009


Oh and FYI, I defintely *do* also want to learn the language and the culture as much as I can too since I'll be there on business (possibly quite regularly) in the future. So tips on that is the other part of my question.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:13 PM on April 12, 2009

New Practical Chinese Reader is a pretty good structured course for learning Mandarin, though make sure you get the CDs with it as well. Integrated Chinese is not a bad choice either.

Grammatically, Mandarin is a simple language. There are none of the verb conjugations, cases, genders, etc. that make languages like Russian or Arabic difficult to English speakers. As your studies advance, you'll find that there are actually quite a few subtleties about Chinese grammar, but when I say it's "simple", I mean it's easy to communicate at a basic level without knowing much.

The most difficult parts of Chinese for English speakers are the pronunciation and the writing system. You can ignore the writing system if your only objective is to learn the spoken language, but I'd suggest you to get Chinese pronunciation down early on, before your bad habits "fossilize" - I've met plenty of Westerners who have been living in China for years who have absolutely atrocious pronunciation, despite being fluent in all other aspects.
posted by pravit at 8:30 PM on April 12, 2009

I like Chinese Podcast just as a supplement.
posted by archofatlas at 9:09 PM on April 12, 2009

There are a number of very nicely made typefaces released for free under the GPL at (listing 1, 2.) These were designed for a Taiwanese computing environment, but they do include characters in the simplified character set. I think some of them are very pretty, and I am personally quite partial to the Fang Song script as in wt024.ttf.

As for learning Mandarin, pravit is correct that achieving basic fluency is fairly easy, and this should be fairly obvious: the literacy rates for young adults is said to be 98%<, an amazing accomplishment given nation's uneven modernization and economic prosperity. Unfortunately, though, I am as yet unconvinced of the usefulness of basic fluency in a professional context.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:23 PM on April 12, 2009

I'm taking Integrated Chinese at the CC. It's not bad but the information density in the 11 chapters we've covered so far this year is rather low. It also has CDs that at least provide some practice in listening comprehension, but it's pretty basic and boring.

I've got this book to help me self-study.

I don't think the writing system -- the 3000-odd hanzi characters you have to know to be well-read -- is particularly difficult to tackle. Reviewing (not necessarily memorizing) 15 a day is about a six months of self-study. On the (Japanese) kanji side I packed in ~1900 characters in about a month of fevered self-study my first year in Japan. As I like saying, about a third of the characters are easy-peasy (eg. 日、月、木) another third are simple combinations that if you make a story of their components you can remember quite easily (奴、触), and the last third are the hardest to retain due to infrequency of use or randomness of the components.

I think Mandarin has a LOT less English loan words than Japanese so that's going to make it harder to study for an English-speaker.

Sorry I don't have any specific advice on study paths, I'm trying to figure that out for myself now. FWIW, I'd like to start DLing Mandarin movies with hanzi subtitles; the stuff I've gotten from netflix doesn't have the subtitles that would make language self-study so much more convenient.
posted by mrt at 11:27 PM on April 12, 2009

Also, MIT has their Mandarin courses online now.

I was looking over it earlier this year and it didn't seem that well organized or modernized but it's something.
posted by mrt at 11:33 PM on April 12, 2009

I'm studying Mandarin in Beijing at the moment, and I find these sites useful: will spit out the pinyin and meaning (in English) of any character you come across and/or can enter into it. You can also use its database as a dictionary, but the search function is a simple string match algorithm and not really worth using. Supports traditional and simplified, but you'll only see simplified in mainland China.

YellowBridge will show you how to write characters. I haven't played with this much, but it's neat.

To use both of the above sites you need a way to enter chinese characters, and for that there's Google Pinyin (run the page through your favourite translator, as it's unsurprisingly written in Chinese). Now: I am not entirely sure what advantage that has over the Microsoft keyboard (if you use Windows), but I installed this to avoid having to dig through the Control Panel.

By the way, pinyin is fantastic and should be mastered as early as possible, but the way it's pronounced is not necessarily what you (as a native English speaker) will think it should be pronounced. Unfortunately I don't know any websites or courses that will teach you pronunciation, because I had it drilled into me (as a highly unwilling teenager) by a tutor several years ago. If you can, get a teacher, because I think it's one of those things you need someone to correct you on.

What else ... Chinese Forums is a largish board just full information like this - I think. I've only really posted in the "Studying Chinese in Beijing" section. But from the forum titles, I think you might be able to find some good info there if you're patient and willing to dig through threads (like any other forum it's full of people asking stupid questions, but there are gems).
posted by Xany at 7:14 AM on April 13, 2009

I recently found Adobe's CJK typography blog which might be of interest here.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:38 PM on May 30, 2009

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