How to Learn Chinese Symbols

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There are approximately 50,000 Chinese characters, known as Hanzi in Mandarin, in the Chinese language. Most of these characters are composed of two or more characters, and each of these symbols or combination of symbols hve their own individual meaning. However, sometimes the same characters have different meanings, depending on the context and pronunciation. Because of these factors, learning Chinese symbols can seem like a daunting task, but with a little practice and patience, anyone can learn how to write Chinese characters.

Things You'll Need

  • Chinese dictionary

Learning Chinese Characters

  • Learn the basic meaning of characters. About 4 percent of Chinese characters come from pictograms. If you can recognize these symbols, you can usually figure out what the whole character means. For example, 水 is the symbol for water, and when you combine 水 with 池, you get the word for pond, 水 池 (shuǐ chí). Other examples include --- (rì), which means sun, and 月 (yuè), which means moon.

  • Write each character 50 times. There are no shortcuts to learning Chinese symbols; you just need to memorize everything. The easiest way to do this is practice, practice, practice.

  • Say the character in a sentence as you write it. Remember, certain characters can have completely different meanings depending on the context. For example, 玆 (zī) can mean both herewith and now, or at this time.

  • Study the pinyin version of the character. Pinyin is a way of writing Chinese characters by using the English alphabet. Since Chinese is a tonal language, pinyin is very useful in helping you learn how to pronounce characters.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep in mind that there are two types of Chinese characters: the traditional form and the simplified form. While the simplified form is used in mainland China, the traditional form is still used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, so you may want to practice writing both forms.
  • Many Chinese characters are formed by associative compounds. If you learn these compounds, it may be easier to remember the meaning of the character. For example, the word 國 (guó) means country. But if you break down the character, -- means estate and it is boxed in with ---, which means defined borders. So 國 means an estate with defined borders, or a country.

References

  • Photo Credit JessAndTheCity: flickr.com/creativecommons
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