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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Chinese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Rui
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Chinese writing.
The Chinese Characters
Unlike English, which is an alphabetic language, Chinese is written with characters. These represent both sound and meaning.
Each 汉字 (hànzì) has one syllable. One or more syllables make up a word. So in Chinese, a word can be made up of one or more 汉字 (hànzì). For example, the word 汉字 (hànzì) is made of two syllables. The first one 汉 (hàn) means "Chinese," or "the Han people," which is the majority ethnic group in China. The second syllable 字 (zì) means "word." So 汉 (hàn) and 字 (zì) together means "Chinese characters."
Although there are more than 50,000 characters in Chinese, you only need to know 2-3 thousand to be considered literate.
Still, memorizing 3000 Chinese characters sounds like a huge challenge. But it's actually easier than you may think! All Chinese characters are made up of smaller components that are used over and over again in other characters. This means that by learning just one component, you can effectively learn multiple characters at the same time. Let's look at this aspect in more detail.
Basic Chinese Radicals
Most of the Chinese characters are pictophonetic. They consist of a radical and a phonetic element. These are the technical terms for the components we just talked about. The radical often suggests the meaning of a character. The phonetic part indicates the original pronunciation, which may or may not be the modern pronunciation.
For example, let's look at the character 饭 (fàn), "rice” or “meal."
Its radical is 饣, which indicates that this word is related to food or eating. The second part 反 is a phonetic element. It suggests its pronunciation is close to the pronunciation of the character 反 (fǎn), meaning "opposite".
To be able to recognize and write Chinese characters, you should know the basic radicals. Now we'll give you a few of the most commonly used radicals.
人 (rén),or its variation 亻, means "man or person." It's present in words like 你 (nǐ), "you." 他 (tā), "he." 众 (zhòng), "the masses."
女 (nǚ), meaning "woman." It's in words like 妈 (mā), "mom." 姐 (jiě), “older sister." 姑娘 (gūniang), "girl."
心 (xīn),or it's variation 忄, means "heart." 想 (xiǎng), "to think." 忆 (yì) "to recall."
手 (shǒu),or its variation 扌, means "hand." It usually appears when the word describes an action using hands, such as 打 (dǎ), "to hit." 拉 (lā), "to pull." 推 (tuī), "to push." 拿 (ná), "to grab."
口 (kǒu),means "mouth." Characters with this radical often involve using your mouth. Such as 吃 (chī,) "to eat." 唱 (chàng), "to sing." 吞 (tūn), "to swallow."
目 (mù) means "eye." 看 (kàn), "to look or see." 睡 (shuì), "to sleep."
言 (yán),or its variation 讠, means "speech." 说 (shuō), "to speak” or “to say." 请 (qǐng), "please, or to invite." 谢 (xiè), "to thank."
水 (shuǐ), or its variation 氵, means "water." 海 (hǎi), "ocean." 河 (hé), "river." 洗 (xǐ), "to wash."
火 (huǒ), or its variation 灬 means "fire." For example, 烧 (shāo), "to burn." 灯 (dēng), "light." 热 (rè), "hot."
衣 (yī), or its variation 衤, means "clothing." 衬衫 (chènshān), "shirt." 袋子 (dàizi), "bag."
Most radicals are at the left or bottom of a character. By identifying radicals, it should be much easier to decode the meaning of new characters. For the phonetic elements, it takes time and effort to memorize their pronunciations. The more you study them, the easier it will be.
Stroke order
When writing in Chinese, it's important to know the order of strokes. Knowing the number of strokes is also important when you look up a word in a radical-based dictionary. Some characters can have many strokes, and they can get very complex. If they're not written in the correct order, some characters may even be unreadable. So learning the proper stroke order is quite important.
Remember, write from left to right.
川 (chuān), “river." 人 (rén), "person."
From top to bottom.
三 (sān), "three."
Horizontal then vertical.
十 (shí), "ten." 土 (tǔ), "soil."
Outside then inside.
月 (yuè), "moon." 用 (yòng), "to use."
Inside then close
回 (huí), "to return." 田 (tián), "farmland."
The middle then the sides.
小 (xiǎo), "small." 水 (shuǐ), "water."
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, we introduced you to the basics of Chinese characters.
You also learned that Chinese characters are comprised of radicals.
Finally, you learned some of the most common stroke patterns when writing 汉字 (hànzì).
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Chinese boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Chinese right away!
We'll see you in the next lesson! Bye.


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

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
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Did you like this video? Please leave us a comment!

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 02:11 PM
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Hello Ivan Fernandez,

Thank you for your comment. People used to think that our thoughts came from the heart, hence the heart radical is used for many characters that represent mental activities.

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


Team ChineseClass101.com

Ivan Fernandez
Tuesday at 02:28 PM
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Hi! Really liked the lesson and Hanzi was introduced very neatly. Can I ask why the Radical for heart (xin) is used for (xiang) to think and (yi) to recall?

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 04:53 PM
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你好 Kendra,

Thank you so much for your positive message! 😇❤️️

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We wish you good luck with your language studies.

Kind regards,


Team ChineseClass101.com

Friday at 01:14 PM
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This lesson was very helpful! I liked how we saw how the hanzi radicals are like building blocks for other similar words.

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 09:59 PM
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Hello Geoffrey,

Thank you for your comment, we're glad to have you here!

You can find a list of the radicals here: https://www.chineseclass101.com/chinese-radicals/

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

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Thursday at 12:59 AM
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I am new to this and i signed up a few days ago, i am really intrigued with the radical and the phonetics especially how the radicals change.I was just curious whether there is a list of the radicals because this would really help me to master the hanzi.

Warm Regards,

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 12:48 AM
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Hello Mark,

Thank you for your comment. We're constantly working to improve and we will consider your feedback for our future development.

Here is a Chinese practice worksheet for you to learn and practice some of the basic and common characters.


In each lesson, there is also a Hanzi Close Up PDF available for learning the characters from the lessons.

Hope it helps, let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Tuesday at 12:24 PM
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I am new to this and signed up only several days ago.

I am practicing pages 5-10 as instructed.

However, many of these characters are NOT in the Hanzi Basic Stroke Order Chart of more than 100 characters !

When I first started on page 5, I wanted to know the stroke order of Wo. But this character is NOT on the chart, nor is Ni.

The workbook for stroke order should follow the examples given. I had to google on youtube the stroke order for I and you, as I do not wish to start learning incorrectly.

Thank you,


ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 11:35 PM
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Hello Robert,

Thank you for your positive comment, we're glad to hear that! 😄

Aryan people in Chinese is 雅利安人 (Yǎlì'ān rén). You can say 我是雅利安人。(Wǒ shì Yǎlì'ān rén.)

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

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Friday at 03:17 AM
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Hello ChineseClass101!

Great lesson for beginners!, I enjoy learning from your videos 😃 expecially this one, breaks down the small simple building blocks of Chinese very well 😄

Question: How dose one refer to the Aryan people in Chinese?

Specifically; "I come from the Aryan people". ?

Kind Regards Robert