Understanding Chinese Characters


There are two character sets: Simplified Chinese characters (简体字) and Traditional Chinese (正體字 or 繁體字). Traditional Chinese was the writing used in much of Chinese history, and continues to be used in Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan and among overseas Chinese; Simplified Chinese was the result of reforms carried out in Mainland China and is now used in Mainland China and Singapore. There are some large differences between these two character systems, so most native Chinese speakers are able to write in only one of the two systems, though they can usually read both.


Chinese characters were also been used in the past by many Asia Ancient Koreans knew how to read and write in Chinese and they also regarded Chinese their official language in the past, until they have made Korean characters their own language. However, until now they can still write their names in Chinese. The Japanese still preserve many Chinese characters (they call it Kanji, which means 漢字) today. They also write their names in Kanji. However, some Chinese characters are developed by themselves which are different from the original Chinese characters.
If you have no prior knowledge of Chinese, but are willing to take Chinese as a interest , Look for Mandarin Course that has a combination of new vocabulary and new grammar in a gradual fashion, building on previous lessons


Speaking and Pronunciation


  • Pay attention to the tones. Since there are so few syllables in Chinese, there are many homonyms, making attention to tones very important. Learning to write the pinyin with correct tones at the same time as the characters will improve your pronunciation and your listening comprehension.
  • Read the text aloud. Speaking (and hearing yourself speaking) will help reinforce the text in your memory. Exaggerating the tones can help you remember them.
  • Look for radicals. Radicals are components of Chinese characters that you will see repeated over and over again. Learning the meaning of radicals will help you to see the connections between similar categories of words. Many characters are comprised of radical-phonetic pairings, where the radical is the “root” that hints at the meaning of the word, while another part of the character hints at the sound of the word. Learning to spot radicals is also useful as they are used when looking up unfamiliar words in Chinese dictionaries.
  • Buy a dictionary. Useful for looking up new words or just browsing. Get a beginner’s dictionary so that you can have a larger font, usage examples and Pinyin pronunciation, all of which are sometimes missing in comprehensive dictionaries. Get a second dictionary later on if you can’t find every word you need. A good choice that provides many example sentences and phrases would be The Starter Oxford Chinese Dictionary (sorry, Simplified version only). Suggested Reading Materials
    • Children’s story books (the characters are easier, many include pinyin or zhuyin for difficult or even all characters)
    • Take a look at various condensed dictionaries to get a feel for the characters