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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are Chinese characters?
Chinese characters (汉字 Hànzì) are logograms. These are symbols used to represent whole words. They’re used in written Chinese. In English, we use an alphabet to spell out each word. However, most letters on their own don’t carry a particular meaning. In Chinese, characters come with an assigned pronunciation and their own definitions. You can combine certain characters together to make words. Most Chinese words are made of 1-3 characters - for example, 我 (Wǒ) “I,” 喜欢 (xǐhuān) “like,” 冰淇淋 (bīng qí líng) “ice cream.”
As you may know, Chinese culture has had a great influence on all the cultures in East Asia—Chinese characters are a great example. 汉字 have been brought to and modified in several other Asian languages, including Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
There are fifty thousands Chinese characters in existence. But don’t be scared away. You only need 3000-5000 to be considered literate. It may still sound like a lot, and it does take time to memorize them, but it’s not an impossible task. You can start by learning the components of characters, which are called "radicals" (偏旁部首 piānpáng bùshǒu). This will make it much easier to recognize, remember, and reproduce characters.
For example, the character 明 míng is made of two radicals: 日 rì and 月 yuè, “sun” and “moon.” When you put the radicals “sun” and “moon” together, we get the character 明. The most common meaning for this symbol is “bright.”


How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
我们下期再见吧!(Wǒmen xiàqī zàijiàn ba!) See you in the next episode!


Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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What Chinese learning question do you have?

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 12:30 PM
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Hello Yasir,

Thank you for your comment.

"What is this?" in Chinese is 这是什么?(Zhè shì shénme?)

Thank you for learning with us, let us know if you have any questions.


Team ChineseClass101.com

Sunday at 12:06 PM
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In chinese how can we say "what is this"?

Please tell me. Thanks

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 02:22 PM
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Hello NIKKI,

Thank you for your comment. It's totally doable, but it will take time. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the strokes, stroke orders and radicals as the first step. Chinese characters are composed of strokes, they're written in a specific order. There is no need to memorize all the radicals. Also, when you read the vocabs and sentences, try to associate the sounds with the characters. Then keep practicing!

Thank you for learning with us, let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Wednesday at 06:18 AM
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❤️️Thank you for this lesson. But I wanna ask. How can you learn 3000-5000 characters when your not Asian and your doing it for totally free and you don't have a teacher just you are learning it

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Sunday at 12:47 AM
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你好 robert groulx,

谢谢 for posting and studying with us. If you have any questions, please let us know.😄

Kind regards,

雷文特 (Levente)

Team ChineseClass101.com

robert groulx
Sunday at 12:30 AM
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thank you for the lsson transcript

: 日 rì and 月 yuè, “sun” and “moon.


ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 12:47 AM
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Hi, Damien,

In old ages, Japanese and Koreans came to China and started to use Chinese characters as their own languages. Nowadays, only Japanese keep the characters while Koreans try not to use characters any more.


Team ChineseClass101.com

Friday at 01:00 AM
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So, in others words, Korean and Japanese stole Chinese characters and modified them in their own way? Is that correct?