This website will help you, if you
- Wish to achieve competence in Chinese
- Wish to type Chinese on the computer, and also
- Wish to learn how to write Chinese when you have only a pen and paper.
You will find then that
- Typing Chinese and writing Chinese is all too easy.
- Looking up a Chinese dictionary is no problem.
A UNIVERSAL SCRIPTThe Chinese Script is not tightly bound to the way you pronounce it. This does make it difficult to pronounce the words. But should the visual form of a word be bound tightly to the pronunciation? That is the route that western alphabetical languages have taken.
However, if the script is the same as the pronunciation, you won’t be able to understand anything if you do not speak the oral language. Imagine your arriving in some part of the world which speaks a different language. Nature calls and you look for a toilet. Everything is in the written script and you cannot understand what it all means! Would you rush through some door and risk being arrested for indecency? Fortunately, most toilets use pictures of a man or a woman to make it easier. (some toilets in Beijing did use just the pinyin script of the toilets, to the great discomfort of tourist who do not speak Chinese.)
So airport signs, road signs and toilet signs, all tend to be universal and visual, but not pronunciation bound. We can call these signs by whatever we call them in our native language, and still know what these signs mean.
When we go to Europe, just reading a menu for ordering food becomes a challenge because the seafood, vegetables, meat, all read differently according to the oral language. But for the Japanese and Chinese who share similar script, life is much easier. Japanese may call the script for beef , 牛 and fish魚 or pig 豚totally different from how you pronounce it in northern or southern China. But if you known these Chinese characters, or Kanji as it called in Japan, you will still know what you read. Similarly, for a Chinese who only speak Cantonese, the oral language in southern China and Hong Kong, reading a menu in remote parts of China, speaking entirely different and non intelligible oral language, pose no problem what so ever.
Historically China was in contact with many cultures. The oral languages or dialects in China also vary tremendously. To achieve effective communication, a universal script was necessary. This created swift and effective communication which is not affected by time, space, or culture. A merchant in a remote part of Asia can write a message to another part of Asia, using this script, confident of its being understood, even it both the writer and the recipient are not Chinese, and speak mutually non intelligible oral languages.
The trouble with people who claim that after studying Chinese for three or more years, they still cannot read a Chinese novel, is that they are stuck thinking of the Romanization of the script and its sounds, and cannot appreciate that this is not how Chinese works.
If they had learn the lesson of the ancient Asian merchants, they would have just accepted that they can read without knowing how to pronounce the Chinese oral language. There is nothing wrong with them calling 花 flower instead of hua1, or calling it hana as the Japanese do. So instead of trying to pronounce 火車站 ，just accept that it means train station, call it ‘train station’, will allow you to catch a train to the next city.
I was told of American students who came to Hong Kong and were terribly frustrated when they tried to speak to the locals in Putonghua. Of course, if they had tried to communicate by writing or reading Chinese script, they would have been so much happier, and doubly proud of their language ability.
Universal scripts have a tradeoff, they are independent of the pronounciation, so that they can be useful to a large variety of oral speeches, In doing so the visual form of the script and its pronunciation are perforce independent. Chinese characters may contain a sound radical. However, depending on the changing influence of people speaking different dialects, the pronunciation of a character may become the dominant version. Thus, the sound radical will often be only partly effective in conveying the sound.
The meaning however often remain stable. In other words, the script to pronunciation relationship is one to many, but the script to meaning relationship is closer to one to one.
On the other hand, those script that are bound to the oral language also has to pay a price. Their pronunciation and spelling is easier, but then the script to meaning relationship is often many, and communication requires learning the oral language. There are also a minimal number of classifier prefixes which can be used to help the reader to understand what the word mean.
DECODING THE CHINESE SCRIPTIf you are having trouble with understanding the Chinese Script, it is simply that you have not given up the Western conception of how words should look like. But really, it is not that difficult, as long as you are prepared to give up your prejudices.
Think of all those words starting with MEGA:
All these words have mega which is derived from the Greek word megas, meaning huge or powerful.
So when you see the mega you know that you are dealing with something huge or powerful. Mega also of course has evolved to mean one million, such as in megabyte, megavolt, and megawatt.
The equivalent of a word in Chinese can be a single character or a combination of two or more characters.
The Chinese radicals部首 is like astro, aqua, mega, sign, etc, each confering a specific meaning to the word. So 木 indicate that the character has something to do with wood, 米 with grain, 酉 with wine or other man made liquid. By having visually based classifier radicals, the meaning of the character becomes clearer, even if the sound of the character is pronounced differently.
The world is not flatEuropean languages have only one direction in normal writing, the horizontal direction.
If you wrote the word 英 (as in 英文 = English) just horizontal, it would read like this: instead, it is written as 英. This is because the strokes in Chinese are written one after the other, both in a horizontal and vertical direction rather than just the horizontal direction.
So if you write English like how Chinese is written, it may look like this:
Or like this:
Now suppose you wish to confine the word you write in a compact uniform space. What could you do?
Well, think of the DNA which would be an enormously long and unwieldy molecule if it is stretched out. Instead, it is coiled up, in the double helix that we all familiar with. You can also think of the two dimensional matrix bar code system instead of the linear one dimensional bar code system.
So if you write megacephaly instead like this:
you would be getting somewhat close to how the Chinese script is formed.
So, the word for particle
Would be if written out the western way,
And much more compact and content rich in Chinese: 粒
So also, if you write China the European way, you would write it like this:
However, in the Chinese script, it looks like this: 㶝
LEARNING CHINESE THROUGH ITS STROKE ALPHABETSDoes Chinese script have alphabets? The answer is no if you mean alphabets which provide clues to the pronunciation. However, the answer is yes, if you mean can the Chinese script be made up from fundamental elements.
There are indeed structural alphabets as against phonetic alphabets in Chinese.
We have shown that 21 basic geometrical stroke shapes constitute the Chinese alphabets. By using these alphabets, all Chinese script can be spelled out. Because these alphabets can be pronounced it is possible to speak out and spell the Chinese script the way you would say: e, n, g, l, i, s, h, English. By doing so, you can then refresh the structure of all Chinese script even when you are traveling in the bus, train, or just having a few moments in the cafeteria.
Once you learn these fundamental Chinese alphabets, you can then spell out the structure of any Chinese character, reciting the structure of each character wherever you are.
Thus you can recite to yourself the word for university student in simplified Chinese: 大学生 is cha-na DA4, diandianPieMaoZheShi XUE2, pieChuanHeng SHENG1.
Obviously you may like to name these alphabets in your own language in some other way. For example, if you want to use the keyboard equivalent of these Chinese alphabets, then you can also just say ge 大DA4, aadmlf 学XUE2, dqb 生SHENG1.
However you wish to do it, by using the Chinese alphabet system, you can now vocalize the structure of all Chinese characters!
WRITING CHINESE IS A CINCHMost Foreign students cannot write Chinese because they do not know the correct Chinese alphabet sequences, and also treat the character like a picture.
Once you grasp that Chinese is just a two dimensional content rich script then you can type the Chinese scripts simply by following its correct sequence, just like uncoiling a DNA molecule. And everytime you type a Chinese character using its stroke alphabets, you are also practicing how to write it.
The Chinese alphabet Logical Language system utilizes the usual keyboard, employing 21 keys representing the 21 Chinese alphabets, and another ten keys representing common combinations of alphabets: