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Lesson Transcript

Intro

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: How do I decipher Chinese characters I don’t know?
Explanation
As we mentioned in an earlier lesson, you need to know at least 5,000 汉字 Hànzì to be able to read. Does that mean you have to memorize every single one of them? Not necessarily. Each character is made of components, which many times indicate or give hints as to what the character means. These components are called “radicals,” or 偏旁部首 (piānpáng bùshǒu). Learning some common “radicals” will help you recognize, remember, and reproduce characters.
For example, the character 明 míng is made of two radicals: 日 rì and 月 yuè, meaning “sun” and “moon.” When you put the radicals “sun” and “moon” together, we get the character 明, the most common meaning of which is “bright.” A lot of times, when you see the radical 日rì in a character, it often has something to do with the sun. Like this character 早 zǎo, meaning “early,” and the word 早上 zǎoshang, meaning “morning.”
水 shuǐ means “water,” and this radical 氵is its variation. When you see them in a character, it usually means the character has something to do with water. Such as 冰 bīng (“ice”),洗 xǐ (“to wash”),河 hé (“river”),海 hǎi (“ocean”).
火 huǒ means fire, and this radical 灬 is its variation. When you see 火 or 灬, the character usually is related to fire or heat. Some examples are 热 rè (“hot”),烧 shāo (“to burn”),灯 dēng (“light”),and 烟 yān (“smoke”).
言 yán and 讠are radicals for something related to “speech,” such as 说 shuō (“to say”) , 语 yǔ (“language”), 词 cí (“word”), 誓言 shìyán (“promise”).
食 shí and 饣 are radicals for anything that’s related to “food” and “drinks.” For example, 饭 fàn (“meal,” or “rice”), 饱 bǎo (“full”),饿 è (“hungry”),餐馆 cānguǎn (“restaurant”).
Learning Chinese characters does take a lot of time and effort, but the result sure is rewarding. After you learn some basic Chinese characters, you’ll even find it easier to navigate in some other countries, like Japan, since 汉字 Hànzì is also part of their writing system! So if you’ve decided to learn 汉字, I recommend that you start with radicals.

Outro

Pretty interesting, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
See you next time!
我们下期再见吧!Wǒmen xià qī zàijiàn ba!

18 Comments

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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

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

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 12:25 PM
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Hello Birthday Cat,


Thank you for your comment. You can find the list of radicals here: https://www.chineseclass101.com/chinese-radicals/


If you have any questions, please let us know.


Ngai

Team ChineseClass101.com

Birthday Cat
Wednesday at 08:59 PM
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Hi! Is there a flashcard deck for chinese radicals?

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 01:54 PM
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Hello 雲,


Thank you for your comment. 字 refers to one character. 詞 refers to the smallest grammatical unit composed of morphemes that can be used as a component in a sentence, it can be one character, two characters or more.


Let us know if you have any questions.


Ngai

Team ChineseClass101.com

Wednesday at 09:54 PM
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Please show the difference between 字 and 詞。

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 08:07 AM
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你好 Celia Salas,


You are very welcome. 😇

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We wish you good luck with your language studies.


Kind regards,

雷文特

Team ChineseClass101.com

Celia Salas
Friday at 01:52 PM
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Thank you so much for this video

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 01:15 PM
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Hello again Musaab,


Thank you for your insights!


Let us know if you have any questions.


Ngai

Team ChineseClass101.com

Musaab
Monday at 02:41 PM
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If you still don't get it, what was meant by my previous comment is that when Japan simplified some of the more complex characters, they sometimes turned out to look exactly like how China had simplified those characters, though others didn't.

Musaab
Monday at 02:38 PM
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For example of the characters simplified by Japan which is different from their simplified Chinese variants to help you understand better: -


Traditional Chinese: 氣

Simplified Chinese: 气

Simplified character (Japanese): 気

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 01:38 PM
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Hello Musaab,


Thank you for sharing with us, we hope you enjoyed the lesson!


Let us know if you have any questions.


Ngai

Team ChineseClass101.com