By Joyce Chen
One of the most common shared experiences of second generation Chinese American kids everywhere is spending three hours every Saturday morning at Chinese school — often held at empty high schools, in community centers, or in rented spaces above storefronts — from the age of 5 to about 18. And one of the very first things said kids were taught is how to write the Chinese alphabet, otherwise known as Zhuyin fuhao (注音符號).
Or, in plainer terms, bopomofo. The form is phonetic, so it's possible to read an entire page of the characters without knowing what exactly you're saying. But, as times have changed, so has language, and the language system is no longer widely taught, if at all. Now, in place of thing phonetic characters, kids are learning the pinyin system — phonetics written in English letters.
What used to be 手寫 and pronounced ㄕㄡ(3) ㄒㄧㄝ (2) is now Shǒuxiě.