Thursday, January 13, 2011

Today is the Birthday of...

Zhou Youguang. 

His may not be a household name, but it's time to learn it.

All students of Chinese might take a moment to wish Professor Zhou a Happy 106th Birthday.

In the 1950s, Zhou spent about 3 years developing the romanization system for writing Mandarin, which is called Pinyin. Other systems have come and gone, but this is the one that stuck. Pinyin is not a perfect system, but without it, the struggles of learning Chinese would be even harder, at least for me.

There are some lovely picture of Zhou here. He looks like a feisty 106. Should we all be so lucky.

(photo from Thanks to for the birthday heads-up.)


  1. He looks great! I'm almost done reading your book and am enjoying it. I am Chinese-American, born in China and came to the US at the age of 8. I speak conversational Mandarin and am working on improving my vocabulary. While I don't have problems with the spoken language, aside from having a limited vocabulary, learning to write the characters is a challenge! I am grateful I do have the basics down, so learning new words is a matter of memorization.

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  2. Should we all look so great at 106 years old!

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    Zhou Youguang, one of China's oldest champions for democracy, turned 109 on Tuesday. The inventor of the Pinyin writing system that revolutionized the teaching of Chinese used the occasion to reiterate his outspoken support for democracy, which has resulted in many of his works being censored, despite his contribution to Chinese language instruction and linguistics, from the very people who probably learned Chinese because of his invention.

    "After 30 years of economic reform, China still needs to take the path of democracy," Zhou told AFP. "It's the only path. I have always believed that."

    Zhou is often credited as the “father of Pinyin,” a system for Romanizing Chinese words using the Western alphabet. Zhou was tasked with creating a pronunciation guide for the Chinese language in the 1950s to help increase literacy. His system saw literacy rates jump from around 20 percent in the 1950s to over 90 percent today, as schools all across China use Pinyin to aid Chinese instruction. and bye the way i am working on certification that is
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  6. Thank you so much. This is very kind of you to share such an amzing knowledge. Hats off.

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